As a contributor to the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s collection of photographs, I was graciously invited to the pre-opening period of the Museum. On Monday, May 19th, my friend Richard and I, walked into the Memorial park and like so many others, were struck by the scale of the place. It is a stark reminder of the enormous wound that was inflicted on the City, the Nation and the World.
It is a beautiful space. The two fountain pools surrounded by the bronze plaques with the names of all those who lost their lives in New York, at thePentagon in Washington D.C. and at the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The names are grouped by association so that co-workers, fire companies, police units, and responders are listed together. Office workers are listed together with co-workers. The names of the Pentagon fallen and the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 are likewise grouped together. Those who worked together are remembered together.
This image looks across the South Memorial Pool toward the Memorial Museum building which is just behind the line of trees.
Once inside the Memorial Museum visitors are gently led down a series of ramps and stairs that feature displays that set the tone of the museum in general. In one there is a projection device that depicts the map of the world made up of words which are reveled as quotes that are highlighted when a recording of that person’s message is heard. It is a compelling way to both hear and see the message at the same time. As one walks further, the way leads down and around corners that open to previews of the main exhibit space far below.
Once on the main floor level you are brought face to face with tangible evidence of not only the scale of the Twin Towers construction members, but the tremendous forces that turned normally straight steel beams into twisted pretzel shaped wreckage. They serve to lend scale to the size of the piles of rubble we have only seen in photographs, and help us understand the enormity of the task undertaken to clear the wreckage.
At the Foundation Hall level, which is some seventy feet below ground level, the exhibit space is broken into a series of irregular shaped rooms that are divided further by partitions that serve as back drops for smaller displays. It is here in these smaller spaces that the personal, even intimate, stories of the 9/11 ordeal are revealed. The trip down to this level has set the stage, but it is here the real cost in human terms are displayed. Here are the personal items of clothing, the protective gear that was worn that wasn’t sufficient protection this time; here is the wreckage of an ambulance that couldn’t save anyone. The flattened remains of a fire department ladder truck gives evidence that so many people just didn’t have a chance. Woven in and out of this part of the museum are displays that speak of individual acts of heroism. Here we read first person accounts of the people who went back inside the towers again and again to rescue or aid complete strangers. It’s here we stare at a photograph of a young fireman who is caught, eyes wide, as he climbs up the stairs as all those around him are headed down and out to safety. His is just one of any number of heroic stories and is a testament to why the cowards who perpetuated these acts of terror will never be successful at defeating what is right and good.
How can I describe this experience? I was touched in my heart. I was saddened in a profound way I don’t think I will ever forget, nor should I; nor should any of us, and in that the museum is successful. I was awed. I was saddened. I was overwhelmed.
If you go and hope to make photographs, be warned that the light levels are quite dim. I found myself exposing at f4 at 1/10th at 32000 iso. Flash just isn’t appropriate in my opinion. It is too intrusive.
Pentax K5IIs with 15mm lens. I shot jpegs and auto white balance. The images were imported into my iPad Air and processed with Nik Snapseed®.