During last year’s 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I had occasion to visit the memorial on September 18, the first Sunday that it was open to the public.
The delay of the museum at that site poses a dilemma.
In its first year, more than 4.5 million people from 170 countries visited the waterfall footprints where the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center once stood.
The memorial was opened to families on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, in conjunction with a nationally televised memorial name-reading ceremony that was reminiscent of campus Holocaust remembrance vigils, with the added dimension that everyone reading was related to one of the victims.
Leading up to my visit, I wasn’t sure how I would react. One of my relatives was saved from the inferno by voting in the mayoral primary that day in 2001. Beyond that, I didn’t have a personal connection to the event of that day, except remembering where I was when I learned about it.
Upon entering, I was caught off guard by a uniformed greeter who bellowed "Welcome to the 9/11 Memorial!" That greeting was interesting because he punctuated it with an exclamation point like a train conductor, rather than the solemn nod of a mourner for which I had braced.
The memorial site was quiet that morning. A lot of tourists’ cameras were out, flowers were placed in the grooves of the falls, and a family came wearing T-shirts bearing the photo of a lost patriarch whose life had been taken at that location 10 years earlier.
I went to the computer at the site and looked up two Israeli nationals who were killed on that day, one of them a passenger on one of the ill-fated flights. I got two printouts directing me to the engraved names of these people, but when I found them, something was still missing. Without a guide, a framework through which to interpret the void left by these people, these mammoth buildings, I felt another void was taking hold: a lack of understanding.
The 9/11 museum, which was scheduled to open one year after the memorial, has been delayed, as noted by The Villager:
As has been widely reported, the National September 11 Memorial Museum isn’t opening this month, as had been hoped, due to a seemingly endless financial dispute between the 9/11 Memorial Foundation and the Port Authority. The delay is troubling, and particularly galling for those who lost loved ones on 9/11 and who have been anxiously awaiting the museum’s opening for years now.
Now there are reports of young visitors littering at the memorial.