New York's Sept. 11 Memorial Museum readies for its close-up

Wed May 14, 2014 3:57pm EDT
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By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A museum memorializing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks opens this week to victims' family members and next week to the public, displaying artifacts from mangled columns recalling the enormity of that fateful day to shattered eyeglasses recalling its personal pain.

Visitors to the National September 11 Memorial Museum in downtown Manhattan descend to exhibitions several stories below street level to be greeted by a Hudson River retaining wall that survived the attacks and a column scrawled with numbers of the police and firefighters who did not.

The museum is the culmination of eight years' work designing the exhibits, collecting artifacts and settling innumerable disputes over how best to document the day when hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an open field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people.

Battles over oversight and funding slowed construction even as reconstruction of the larger World Trade Center site was getting under way. In October 2012, the museum's lower levels were flooded in Superstorm Sandy.

"The museum is a place where you can come to understand 9/11 through the lives of those who were killed and the lives of those who rushed here to help," said former Mayor Michael Bloomberg as he introduced the museum to members of the media on Wednesday.

Among the most moving displays was a fire engine badly battered in the collapse of the twin towers, he said.

"All I could think of was, I wonder what happened to the firefighters that were assigned that day on that engine and whether they survived and what were their last thoughts if they didn't," he said.

The museum helps to convey the events and emotions of Sept. 11 by using audio such as telephone messages left to loved ones from those who would die in the towers, and cockpit recordings from the doomed planes.   Continued...

Two steel "tridents" recovered from the World Trade Center site after September 11, 2001, stand in the entry pavilion area of the 911 Memorial Museum, which is under construction, at the World Trade Center site in New York, July 2, 2013.  REUTERS/Mike Segar