9/11 Memorial Museum: I Was There, I Remember


Sept. 11, 2001 changed the lives of many, young and old…

To quote President Franklin D. Roosevelt, September 11, 2001; 9/11, “a date which will live in infamy,” will never be put to the back of our minds. The “our” being those that were there during the 9/11 attack, even those like myself. I take the time to say.

I was too young to understand this day, but old enough to remember.

Photo by AOOFotography

As a young child, between the ages of six and seven, I remember living in the area of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn during the attack. I remember my Grandmother picking me up from school, seeing the smoke from the first plane hitting the tower. The papers and smoke 

traveling over to my borough, going home and watching the news all day: the towers collapsing, rescue operations, political addresses, and more.

A day filled with uncertainty became cemented as a day filled with certain grief and confusion.

The overwhelming amount of lives lost to an extreme terrorist attack. Multiple attacks in different parts of the country; The World Trade Centers, The Pentagon, The White House. I reiterate,

I was too young to understand this day, but old enough to remember.

Almost twenty years later, this day continues to live in infamy, however it is also made into a day of remembrance through the creation of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.  Today, tomorrow, yesterday, next week, next month, any day is a day to remember what happened on September 11, 2001. For my Grandmother and I, our day of remembrance was June 15, 2018.

Our first visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum proved to be intense, transparent and reminiscent. Especially for my Grandmother, whom held a deeper connection to the Twin Towers than I could have ever imagined.

Anna R. Ojeda, my Grandmother, pictured above. What’s going through her head.. I wish I knew. Photo by AOOFotography

To read the plaques, watch the videos, hear the audio, observe the crowd –knowing there could be family members of those that perished that day—already sets the mood, even for those that are learning about 9/11 through history and not life experience. With the museum being built on Ground Zero, the atmosphere is intense and emotional.

To stand on the ground that so many perished on creates a new appreciation for life.

The museum is made from pieces of the original Twin Towers and houses pieces that were integral in maintaining the structure. However, some of the pieces that were saved have a deeper meaning. 

For example, the Survivors’ Stairs, one of the only accessible escape routes during the attacks. These stairs allowed many survivors to escape the World Trade Center Plaza to the Vesey Street sidewalk.  They are put on display next to a staircase and escalator. Perhaps to give visitors a feeling of what was experienced on those very steps.

The further we traveled into the museum, the harder it became for us to separate the present and the past. Murals, artifacts, pieces of destroyed structure, and more imbued the viewers with a sense of harsh reality that they weren’t ready to face.

Located below are various pieces of artwork done in remembrance of 9/11. The top piece was done by NYU’s Child Study Center. A project initiated to focus on responses to 9/11.  

The clay vase pictured above is engraved with the 2,996 victims of 9/11. 

Various parts of the museum are not open to flash photography, but take my word, the intensity never let up. Two of the areas that are off limits to the public is a monastery that holds three caskets full of remains that have yet to be identified and a Remembrance Room dedicated to the 2,996 victims of 9/11.

The area that takes the longest to get through is a historic timeline of events that transpired from the start of 9/11 until the collapse of both Twin Towers and the rescue operations that followed afterward. Flash photography of any form was not allowed in this area.

Photo by AOOFotography

To act cohesively with the timeline, the 9/11 Memorial Museum put items on display.

The items range from window glass that was a part of the Twin Towers, articles of clothing from bystanders and survivors, radios and equipment used during rescue operations, and more. By pairing the items with the timeline, a devastating intimacy is formed. We are all one person looking at, and possibly reminiscing, this day in all perspectives.

Photo by AOOFotography

Smaller areas are secluded from the rest of the timeline exhibit due to the harsh content. The alcoves contain video/audio footage, of specific rescue stories, the infamous “jumping man” images, survivors escaping tower collapse by minutes, and more. The timeline takes a minimum of two and a half hours to go through.

At the end, many visitors, including my grandmother and I, left the 9/11 Museum mentally and physically exhausted.

The memories, the knowledge, the collective air of trepidation followed us outside, where we took a walk around the memorial. Tracing our hands over the engraved names as we prayed for the survivors, victims, and families.

As we walked away from the 9/11 Museum and Memorial, we spoke about the necessity of reliving this day. As proud Brooklynites, we understand what it means to love the negative and positive of New York. We remember the events unfolding from our apartment windows. My grandmother relives her after-work visits with her coworkers. Memories of enjoyment and laughter that took place within the Twin Towers. She will always hold more emotional standing than I when it comes to this tragic time in history.

But I need to take the time to remind myself,

I was too young to understand this day, but old enough to remember.

Even though we differed on our emotions and memories, we agreed on a strong fact about this day. We couldn’t allow this day to define us, or anyone, involved.

A day recognized by many, will not define New Yorkers. Rather than be afraid of another attack, we rise above it.
Photo by AOOFotography

We honor the lost souls by sharing this day with anyone willing to take a trip back in time. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum offers that and more. I strongly encourage everyone to take a day and dedicate it to visiting this area. Whether you were there or not, 9/11 is important to know.

This day will forever live in our hearts and minds, even as we grow older and inevitably experience more heartache, we will always remember 9/11. People like my grandmother will always remember more than those who were my age, but I take this time to reiterate,

I was too young to understand this day, but old enough to remember this day.