New York’s National September 11 Memorial remembers the people who died in the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, as well as the victims of the other violent acts in Washington and Pennsylvania on September 11th and the 1993 bomb-attack on the basement of the Center’s North Tower.
Nearby stands the National September 11 Museum, dedicated on May 15th 2014, designed by the New York architectural practice Davis Brody Bond specifically to evoke memories without causing additional distress to survivors and the families of victims. The entrance pavilion is by the Norwegian practice Snøhetta.
The below-ground 110,000 square-foot space incorporates surviving archaeology of the site, including footings of the towers, part of the slurry wall that holds back the Hudson River, and the transplanted Survivors’ Staircase, thirty-eight steps that formed part of the link from 5 World Trade Center to Vesey Street.
Major artefacts displayed include girder-work from the towers, part of the broadcasting antenna from the top of the North Tower, a badly damaged fire truck and other emergency vehicles. There are objects, clothing, documents and photographs associated with those who died and those who survived, and tributes such as the Dream Bike, a motor-cycle restored by New York Fire Department firefighters on behalf of their lost colleague Gerard Baptiste.
Portraits of the 2,983 victims of the 1993 and 2001 bombings and commemorations from all over the world are displayed along with a rotating display of artefacts and recovered property associated with particular individual victims and survivors, many of them gifted by families, friends and colleagues, together with still photographs and audio- and video-material from before, during and after the attacks.
The layout is skilfully arranged to lead the visitor gently through a sequence of spaces that interpret sights, sounds and memories of the World Trade Center, the events of September 11th 2001, the rescue and recovery operations and the continuing rebuilding on the site.
Material that might be disturbing, such as a display about those who fell from the towers before they collapsed, is subtly flagged so that it can be avoided. Friendly, unobtrusive docents are on hand to talk about the exhibits and the events.
This is not a place to rush through. I spent three and a half hours there and didn’t see everything.