Visiting the 9/11 museum, 15 years on from terror
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Of all the things you’ll probably do in New York, visiting the National September 11 Memorial & Museum is likely to be the most bizarre. It starts on the Subway, where the nearby station is still, eerily, named World Trade Center. It’s jolting: the name is the same; the station is the same, the ticket barriers and stairs up to the street and (probably) the crowds of hassled people look the same. The heat, pumped out of trains’ air conditioning vents, is oppressive in the morning rush. World Trade Center workers, bustling out of the E train at 8am on September 11th, 2001, would have seen exactly what we see. Nothing changes. Except, it does. Two huge memorial pools now stand where the North and South Towers once were, ploughing deep into the ground and proving an endless flow of water, imposing and yet somehow calming, into the void. Around the marble edges of the fountain, the names of those who died – not just in the towers, but also on the hijacked planes and on the previous attempt to take down the towers, on 26th February 1993 – are engraved. Nearby, a surviving tree is held up by wires and fenced off, in a spot between the fountains. A few hundred yards away, One World Trade Center – the observation deck that stands a watchful guard close by where its previous incarnations once were; now New York’s tallest building – rises high into the sky, a symbol of rebirth, but also of defiance. (An aside – as we later saw from the Liberty Island ferry, there is a huge, deliberate void in the New York skyline, where the towers have left their indelible gap in the sky. One World Trade stands respectively to the left. It does not replace what was there before. The void speaks for itself; deliberate.) Inside, we watch on loop as a news anchor interrupts the interview he is in the middle of, apologetically, because he is hearing reports filtering in to his brightly-lit studio of a major incident, “right here in New York City.” The exhibition tells us stories that we might know of, but mostly ones that we don’t. Of Zoe (aged eight, loved dancing and Girl Scouts) and Dana (aged three, fuzzy-haired and smiley) Falkenberg, on the way to Australia with their parents Charles and Leslie. Of head teacher Ada Rosario Dolch, who led her pupils to safety in Battery Park that morning – whilst knowing her sister Wendy had been working for Cantor Fitzgerald in the North Tower. Of 27-year-old firefighter Gerard Baptiste, who had spent the summer procrastinating over the repair of a “fixer-upper” motorbike – which his colleagues later restored fully in his honour.
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