Friday, September 12, 2008

In which I visit the Tribute WTC Visitor Center

Ground Zero at the WTC siteImage via Wikipedia
A scale model of the World Trade Center greets visitors.  Playing on a television screen on the wall, and projected onto the white plastic scale-model buildings stretching overhead, is a video about the culture and community of the World Trade Center: two people in Twin Towers costumes dance for children a la Mickey Mouse at Disney World; happy couples dine at Windows on the World; shoppers head underground to buy everything but groceries; parents bring their children to work, so that they can enjoy concerts festivals, and puppet shows; office workers hear live music through their windows.

The World Trade Center is referred to as both a city unto itself and a second home.

A panel keeps the pleasant nostaliga seperate.

This panel tells the tale of the 1993 bombing in the underground garage of the north Tower, which killed six people, including a pregnant woman, and injured over a thousand.

The back wall of the center is a bright sky blue, broken up by pictures of "Missing" flyers, first one, then a few, until the wall is more black-and-white that blue and the flyers overlap.  An older woman calls, "Here he is!" and her companions gather around one man's picture.

Across from this wall is another, exhibiting artificats of Septermber 11, 2001: a piece of airplane, parts of a building, cell phones and wallets, a souvenir stuffed lamb and guns.  Between the two walls, more panels feture quotes from survivors and audio or rescue calls.  One firefighter's mangled coat and helmet stand in a display case next to a television screen playing the story of the rescue and recovery efforts.

There are two memorial lists around the corner.  One is an alphabetical list of those killed in the 1993 and 2001 attacks.  The other is a projection, listing the same people and their ages, organized by affiliation: firehouse, business, police station, airplane.  The walls around these lists are actually display cases full of photographs and mementoes donated by family members. Visitors choke back tears, or give up and cry openly.  The Tribute Center is prepared for this: on every bench sits at least one box of tissues, and volunteers rush to offer tissues to weeping visitors in other parts of the Center.

Visitors go down a flight of stairs to the final gallery, a white room ringed with images and quotes of the world offering its sympathy and good wishes.  Stories told by survivors and family members play through earphones, and slips of paper decorate the walls in what becomes a mural-like guest book, offering visitors' names and hometowns as well as their thoughts and prayers.  Many of the displayed sheets show not paragraphs, but pictures drawn by young children, who label them, "I miss you, Daddy."

The good

You know, this really is a phenomenal museum and memorial.  I only hope the official memorial center they're building will be jsut as nice -- and I'm sure it will be.

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