Wednesday, September 12, 2012

National September 11 Memorial & Museum Must Visit NYC Landmark for Families + Kids

Remembering 9/11

As a Baby Boomer who grew up in the Tri-State area, I visited New York City countless times as a kid. Even living as an East Coast transplant in California for the past 30+ years I've managed to visit the city that never sleeps every year or so. In fact my last dose of Manhattan before the September 11, 2001 calamity was in August 2001, just about two weeks before the World Trade Center Twin Towers were brought down at the hands of terrorists.

WTC Freedom Tower under construction, view from Subway exit
Every New York family vacation and business trip taken since 9/11/2001, I've wanted to visit Ground Zero. To go in reverence to all those who lost their lives on that horrific day -- and to also remember the many who survive but are living with lifelong mental and physical challenges that you don't hear much about. Finally last month I made that pilgrimage of a lifetime to the hallowed place that's been on my mind for the last 11 years. This is my story.

My solo visit to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum -- which encompasses about 50% of the original 16-acre WTC site -- began with making an online reservation months before arrival to ensure a free admission ticket when I was in town for BlogHer 2012 women's blog conference in early August.

Rainy day at the National September 11 Memorial, Museum in background
I arrived in New York on the Red Eye from L.A. and by early afternoon was heading down to Lower Manhattan via the A Train. The second I emerged from the subway to walk the few short blocks to the site I saw it: the new Freedom Tower rising majestically as it is being built floor by floor into the sky. It made me feel joyous to see this phoenix rising from the ashes IRL (in real life).

Rain drops dotted the engraved name plaques, reminiscent of tears
Appropriately enough on the day I visited, New York was experiencing some unseasonal summer rain. So arrival here was a poignant reminder of the tears that continue to be shed for all that was taken from us, the physical and spiritual, that fateful 9/11 day. Good thing it was drizzling so that no one noticed the tears that streamed down my own cheeks. It was comforting somewhat to know, though, that I wasn't the only one there crying outwardly or inside. 

Standing in the rain without an umbrella I wanted to absorb as much I could. In fact I was so immersed in the meaning of this place I didn't realize until after I'd left the site that the hairstyling I'd had just hours before at John Barrett's new Pony Tail Bar at Bergdorf Goodman was totally ruined. Life's luxuries certainly do seem trivial after an experience like this.

Security here at the Memorial is tight, like elsewhere since 9/11
Prior to 2005 the public only had the viewer platform to pay their respects here. Ever since the World Trade Center grounds have been buzzing with all kinds of new life. At the same time the new tower complex is being built, the museum on the adjacent Memorial sector of the site is also under construction marching toward opening as soon as possible.

Old buildings remaining after 2001 are a stark contrast to the WTC site 
The new tower in progress seems to defy barbed wire at its base
Sure there's a lot of building activity going on now, but there is also so much to see on the beautifully landscaped property that is already available for public use.  The outdoor National September 11 Memorial is open seven days per week, having just celebrated its first anniversary of operation this week. Already 4.5 million people from around the U.S. and world have visited.

The 9/11 Memorial named Reflecting Absence is comprised of two huge black, seemingly bottomless reflection pools designed by architect David Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker. The names of the 2,983 people whose lives were snatched in the 1993 and 2001 attacks are engraved in a meaningful order on bronze parapets that frame the top edges of the pools. There's even a free smartphone app called the 911 Memorial Guide that will help you fully appreciate the memorial area as well as aid you in locating a particular name on its walls.
One of the two Reflecting Absence pools at National 9/11 Memorial 

Each of the reflection pools is massive, covering about an acre of ground with 30 foot waterfalls cascading down all sides. You can't see where the water finally disappears into an abyss at the bottom of the inner squares at the base of the pools. This represents an inner void that remains, a lasting and beautiful reminder of the lives gone forever and all the entombed human body parts that remain within.

Says Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the 9/11 Memorial Chairman, "The 9/11 Memorial serves as a beautiful place of reflection, a symbol of  perseverance and a sacred site to remember the tragic events that occurred 11 years  ago. With the help of millions of visitors and other supporters, we can ensure this national tribute will be here for generations to come."

Follow the WTC complex construction site progress online at
Iconic New York skyline will soon have a new look, View from SoHo rooftop
Just steps away from the Memorial plaza where the footprints of both towers are outlined in water, the Visitor's Center building is also open. It combines a mini exhibit with a gift shop where you can purchase a variety of meaningful souvenirs with some of the profits going to fund the new museum now being built. Inside this structure, which does not require reserved tickets, you and your family can see a handful of historical artifacts from the tragedy as well as watch a moving multi-media presentation featuring the 9/11 story and the people who lost beloved family members that day.

The elegant National 9/11 Memorial Museum under construction
Under construction: Museum in foreground, Freedom Tower in back
Steel beam from original WTC as viewed through glass of new museum
No one that I knew personally was murdered on September 11th. Yet, like many others, I still haven't found complete closure to the events of 9/11. And may never will. But going to the memorial was certainly a step in the right direction and I hope to bring my hubbie and four children back to visit again once the new museum is opened. In the mean while I urge everyone who has the ability to visit. Especially if you are a mom or dad consider bringing your children here. After all, today's kids are tomorrow's future and this is one of the most important modern historical places in America you can visit as a family.

Visitor Exit & ambulance remind you: For many there was no exit
Due to ongoing construction at the World Trade Center site, reservations for timed passes are required to visit the memorial. Tickets are by reservation and you can get yours at

Read more about 9/11 in the MBE's 2010 11-day post series 
September 11th Memorial
10th Anniversary Series of Hope & Renewal

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - Imagery of a Pink Hand Bag
Friday, September 2, 2011 – Life is Too Short After 9/11 Book Review
Saturday, September 3, 2011 – Charity Event Fitting Memorial to 9/11
Sunday, September 4, 2011 – Songs & Music Inspired by 9/11
Monday, September 5, 2011 – Faces of Hope - Babies Born on 9/11 Book Review
Wednesday, September 7, 2011 – Teaching Kids from K-12 About 9/11
Thursday, September 8, 2011 –  9/11 Acknowledged by Fashion's Night Out
Friday, September 9, 2011 – Children's Readathon at World Trade Center 9/10
Saturday, September 10, 2011 – 9/11 National Day of Service & Remembrance
Sunday, September 11, 2011 – 10th Anniversary is Marked in Cities & Towns Across U.S.

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  1. Thank you for posting this. I live in a suburb of NYC but have yet to visit the memorial. I was living in NYC at the time of the tragedy and my oldest child was only 4 at the time. I will wait until my youngest child is a bit older to appreciate the memorial and then will bring all of my children there.

  2. Thank you for this post. I have not been back since right after the tragedy but after reading this I must return to pay my respects at the Memorial. I will never forget what I saw when I visited last. It was simply devastating. I would love to make a new memory!

  3. Thank you for your thoughtful comments Emily and LoretteLavine. The memorial truly is a beautiful way to remember everything that happened that Sept 11th day just over 11 years ago. The important thing is to keep that memory alive for children growing up today as well as future generations.