September 11th Memorial, Mom & Me…

The National September 11 Memorial Museum.

The National September 11 Memorial Museum.

I recently visited the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Some dates are forever etched in our memory. Some things take time to absorb, process and feel even though our minds and bodies want to automatically react in the moment. Once we have the time and the growth associated with that perspective of time, we see that there is time before and after these historic dates. Dates like that of our birth and September 11, 2001.

For me the date that can’t be separated from September 11th is September 10th of the same year. My mother passed about ten hours before that first plane hit the North Tower. I was with her with two sisters and it was a beautiful though sad experience. I remember my sister telling her that it was okay to go and  her trying to audibly relate what she was seeing. My father had passed unexpectedly too eight years before in 1993 so I felt alone in the world. The next morning we were at the house getting ready to go to the funeral parlor and my brother-in-law called to say turn on the TV. I did just in time to see the second plane hit the South Tower and watched with horror as the towers came down. Though I saw I did not relate to the loss of life at the time as it seemed that my life was lost. Maybe that is how you felt or will feel when both of your parents have passed too?

I was and will always be my Mom's 6-foot 3-inch baby!

I was and will always be my Mom’s 6-foot 3-inch baby!

It took me three to six months to realize and grieve for the loss of life on September 11th, at the World Trade Centers, at the Pentagon and that field in Pennsylvania. I remember that first attack in 1993 that claimed six victims. Maybe that was the first time in my life I really wondered why someone would do something so terrible to innocent people. What were they thinking and how did they come to think like that? Now it seems there is terror all over our world even some right here at home in our schools and movie theaters.  How is this all happening?

Like the building of this magnificent Memorial and Museum, some things take time, longer than we expect or think we can endure. But once built, once addressed, the process eventually works and we get it right. They did get it right, as close to perfection as can be, with the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. That ’11’ represents the two towers and they are still standing in my mind. The 2,995 heroes, alphabetically from Gordon M. Aamoth, Jr. to Igor Zukelman are still loving and inspiring in my mind. There are many things left in my mind and heart and other minds and hearts that I meet to share and to act on while we are still here living on this earth.

Smiling, it was a beautiful day to be alive and in lower Manhattan to visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

Smiling, it was a beautiful day to be alive and in lower Manhattan to visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

I didn’t know what to expect as I walked onto the Memorial Plaza. I was a little disoriented. Coming from mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral I missed my subway stop and ended up in Brooklyn. Once back in Manhattan I walked around the construction site with many others until I found the right approach to enter. Like others, I was naturally drawn to the side of the pool in the footprint of the South Tower. I saw names inscribed in the bronze parapets protecting me from falling into the waters rushing down the 30-foot waterfalls. The water continues to a smaller center void and disappears. I stood there and noticed some of the yellow roses placed by those heroes whose birthday was today. I thought about life and death and how most people wake up on the day they die thinking it will be another day like the one before. My thoughts were not of terror but of respect, honor and admiration for the people whose names were inscribed on this Memorial. I did wonder why was the museum underground. Doesn’t this water lead us to a darker, colder place than this beautiful sunny and warm day? Don’t we place things on high that we admire? I didn’t get it then but a few hours later I did and I am grateful I did, it made me more human and alive.

The opening video takes you back to September 11th and your visit to the Memorial and Museum begins...

The opening video takes you back to September 11th and your visit to the Memorial and Museum begins…

As fate would have it, it does always work out for me, I waited in line less than 10 minutes and bought a ticket for the 1:30 entrance group which was only 15 minutes away. I would highly recommend buying your tickets online, in advance, when you go if you can better estimate your schedule than I can. My first reaction after entering the shaded doors to the museum was one of anger and hatred. The first thing I saw was a security checkpoint like the ones in airports. I don’t want to prove to anyone I am peaceful and I don’t want to think that anyone else will want to terrorize me and need to be screened before I associate with them. But the feelings pass quickly and I smile as I begin to partially disrobe and chit chat with the attendants.

The opening video is not to be missed. I went around and saw it for a second time. It took me back to September 11, 2001 and I knew today would be the day I fully experience that tragedy and the hope and inspiration associated with it. I felt whole, as if my Mom and Dad were with me too, along with the whole world actually. It is a place, like Ragtime’s at the beach, where you can show up alone and feel like you are with everybody. The staggered entrance times are necessary and create an ongoing flow of people passing through the museum. much like the water flowing in the pools above. Though unlike Ragtime’s, it is a somber affair, though joyful in a quiet way as you feel proud to be an American and proud to be human like the people who responded to help those hurt or killed in the tragic events of September 11th.

The Freedom Tower, the new One World Trade Center, is the skyline pointer to find the Memorial & Museum.

The Freedom Tower, the new One World Trade Center, is the skyline pointer to find the Memorial & Museum.

The video takes place in a barren, stark and simple theater of light wooden seats and sleek metal railings. The introduction is brief and the video is entitled Facing Crisis: America Under Attack. It is a melody of our leaders on that fateful day- Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, President George W. Bush (No. 43), New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and others as the events of the day unfold. Giuliani witnessed one of the 2,955 dear souls leap to their death and knew early on that Father Judge, the Chaplain of the New York City Fire Department, was the first fatality. His heroic leadership emerged from realizing this was beyond anything ever experienced before and that he would have to rely on people and the human spirit to figure it out as they went along.

There was concern that the U.S. military had shot down that plane in Pennsylvania after the order was given to have F-16 pilots shoot down any civilian plane that was unresponsive to their commands. This was before anyone knew about alphabetic Hero No. 153 out of 2,955 Todd M. Beamer gave his order “Let’s roll” aboard Untied Flight No. 93.  President Bush, elected with no campaign debate of such an event, became a wartime President early in his first term. His comment “life is that way, you have to deal with things that you don’t want to deal with,” stuck with me. How many times do we fail to accept reality, turn to alternatives that placate us, or worse yet cause more harm, instead of dealing with the core issue? I know I have done that lots of times in my life.

Like I said the opening video was so riveting, so informative I went around and saw it a second time.

Two tridents guard the entrance to the Museum with the new Freedom Tower beyond.

Two tridents guard the entrance to the Museum with the new Freedom Tower beyond.

From there, the tour of the Museum and Memorial is all downhill. First past two tridents from the North Tower. The tridents are the steel columns that were anchored in bedrock 70 feet below street level and rose the first five stories of the World Trade Centers. Their name trident comes from the three prongs that they branch into at the top. What I noticed as I walked down the stairs was the new Freedom Tower, the new One World Trade Center, a gleaming 104-story superstructure beyond the two tridents. Somewhat of a phoenix, rebirth from the ashes.

Soon on an on a ramp in a sea of people as we descend into the main Museum and Memorial. There are numerous artifacts, too many to include in this article but CLICK here to access the Commemorative Guide. I began to see the square outlines of the two towers below ground and tried to figure out the destination of the water from the waterfalls and void above ground. It came to me when I arrived at the lowest level and saw the exposed bedrock where the steel of the tridents had been sheared off. This was truly Ground Zero, this was the rock the original World Trade Center Towers were built on. Now it was the rock upon which a September 11th Museum to respect that day, and a September 11th Memorial to honor the 2,955 souls who perished, had been built. The water from above, was their spirit and the spirit of all that is good in the world, flows down through the heart of these two footprints in our lives. I am not afraid of terror. I live and rejoice in the light of the goodness of our world.

Although I did not meet anyone on my four hour tour I felt connected to all that were there with me that day. I noticed many pictures being taken but few selfies or with anyone in the picture. The subject matter and presentation made for a respectful manner by which all conducted themselves. From this point on photographs were not allowed.

The Last Column removed from the September 11 recovery site sits at Ground Zero of the Museum.

The Last Column removed from the September 11 recovery site sits at Ground Zero of the Museum.

I first went into the Historical Exhibit of September 11, 2001 in the footprint of the North Tower. The flow through the exhibit was along the timelines of the September 11 Attack and the Recovery at Ground Zero. What must have took evil people a long time to plan took professional fire  fighters and policemen and everyday people nanoseconds to respond too. The recovery began immediately. Good and the human spirit prevailed immediately and still does. I was moved by this exhibit, partially because it took me back to the night before, but fully because of how fellow human beings responded to such a horrific situation. I can only hope to be like one of those 2,955 heroes if given the opportunity.

I remember coming down to New York City to visit my college roommate. It seems like we would always go to lower Manhattan and go up on top of the South Tower. The North had an antenna and there was no way to get from the top of the South to the top of the North. Only French aerialist Philippe Petit did so, walking on a cable suspended between the not-yet-completed twin towers in August of 1974. It felt ironic to me that so many like myself could now walk as though free and on air from the North Exhibit to the South Exhibit. Somehow this Museum and Memorial takes you from the depths of Gotham City to the Heavens above to be with those now living an eternal life.

"No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory of Time" by Virgil, each tile is a different shade of blue for each of the 2,955 souls.

“No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory of Time” by Virgil, each tile is a different shade of blue for each of the 2,955 souls.

The memorial exhibition, In Memoriam, commemorates the lives of those who perished on September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993. On the outside square corridor there are head shots of the 2,955 people from floor to ceiling. This is a big square, probably 75 feet on each side and 20 feet high it seemed to me. You feel immersed in this sea of humanity and it is hard to walk by without making eye contact with each face. Inside the square in a theater with seats on all four walls with two projections of the same here picture and bio on opposing walls. There you sit, facing other visitors, getting to know each September 11th person as their spouse or loved one tells you about them and you read and see the picture on the wall. The feeling of connection and community is unlike any other I have experienced in my life.

It is time to leave, find the subway and catch a LIRR back to my sister’s place in Lynbrook on Long Island. It is difficult to leave since there is so much good to absorb in the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Though I saw most of the material I know there is so much more to process. Even though I knew no one directly connected to this tragedy, after visiting the Memorial and Museum I feel even more directly connected to its sustenance and spirit. I will be back to visit again sometime soon.

Happy Birthday John Talignani. We miss you dearly.

Happy Birthday John Talignani. We miss you dearly.

As I emerged to the light of day once again it is pouring rain outside. I see the tears of rainwater coming down the window behind the old tridents that salute the new Freedom Tower not as tears of sadness but of joy. I need to catch the subway to catch the train that leaves once an hour. I am back in reality and thankfully remember that I have a small umbrella in my backpack. Life is good, rain is wet and the air a bit cooler than before as I run out on the plaza past the yellow flower commemorating the birthday of Alphabetical Hero No. 2,676 John Talignani. I am not sure why but I sort of wave and smile his way as I hopscotch the puddles of rain water. Maybe it is because I feel like we are all connected, we are really basically all the same. Like water, we could be flowing in the Memorial pools or down the Mississippi or in the waves crashing on the shores on the Maine coastline. Hopefully we are not too isolated in small puddles for too long in our lives. Ultimately we are droplets waiting above to fall gently down upon this earth, perhaps as angels like those 2,955 souls of September 11.

Mom & Dad on Dad's 59th Birthday, same year I graduated from high school. They were married nearly 48 years until Dad passed in 1993.

Mom & Dad on Dad’s 59th Birthday, same year I graduated from high school. They were married nearly 48 years until Dad passed in 1993.

In reality there is another significant date in our lives, along with our birth and September 11th. We are not going to live forever and that day will likely start as simply as the one before it. A kids playground song came to mind on the train ride out of the city. You know the one that goes like this- sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G, First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby. No expectations, time wise, but it would be nice when my sons sing that song to completion.

As for me, I am grateful to be alive, even for one more day. I love life and everyone that is a part of my life yesterday, today and tomorrow, or hopefully for all three time periods. I miss my Mom and Dad dearly and always will until we are united again. If I learned one thing those two days in September 2001 it is that life is too short and we can never love enough. Hopefully y’all know I love you because I do whether it is raining or not.

Have a TROML Day today!

Andy (-:

I love y'all.

I love y’all.