New York-The 9-11 Museum

By Mark

We took some time off last week for a family trip to NYC. One of the top things on our collective list was a trip to the new 9-11 museum.  We were all very impressed with the exhibits and the impact they still convey.   The two fountains now mark where the old foundations for the north and south towers once stood.  The museum blends in very well with the architecture. 

In the summer of 2001 our graphic artist/admin assistant had moved with her son back to Long Island. She had just started her new job in Manhattan in the South Tower in Sept 2011. We got a postcard from her a few days later with her new office circled high up on the 88th floor.  Michelle Lanza’s name is now inscribed one of the panels lining the memorial fountains. 

Engraved around each fountain are the names of all the people who worked in the buildings, the first responders, the passengers on the planes as well as the names from the Pentagon and from Pennsylvania. Inside the museum is a room where all of their photos line the walls and an interactive electronic display.

Lining the lobby and throughout the building are twisted columns of two inch steel. 

Looking back up as you move down the escalator you can see the almost completed World Trade Center building. 

.  As you head down the ramp into the main part of the museum the side wall is the original slurry wall built as part of the original foundations for the towers.  It helps keep the Hudson out and was the backdrop for most of the excavations on site.   

The two story tall steel beam in the center of the room was the last piece removed during recovery.

Each of the crews working signed it and left some memories behind. 

The stories of the first responders still are inspiring. Looking at the wreckage of the trucks and ambulances destroyed in the collapse helps drive home how powerful it was.

They have on display a two foot tall section where 5 floors have been compacted into layers.  They don't photograph well.   In the timeline section of the museum, no photographs are allowed.  Lots of personal stories and items are shown there. We planned to spend a couple of hours but stayed about four.  Tickets are a must before you go and I can say that everyone should make the trip.  The rest of our trip was much less somber and we had great weather.  It made for some good pictures which I will save for next week and beyond.  

A Fitting Memorial

By Mark

Howdy Folks, as threatened or promised here is Part II of our weekend in Pittsburg.  While we were driving up to the wedding we saw the road signs for the United Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, PA.  We decided that it would be worthwhile to make a detour on our way back home. 

On the morning of 9-11-2001, United flights from all over the country took off.  Flight 93 from Newark, NJ was headed to San Francisco on that Tuesday Morning.  Because of heavy volume at the airport, it left the ground about 40 minutes late.  That delay made all the difference.  Sometime after takeoff, the 4 onboard hijackers killed a first class passenger and entered the cockpit, killing or incapacitating the crew.  They herded the remaining 37 passengers and crew to the back of the airplane.  The plane then turned around and headed for Washington, DC.

Because of the late takeoff, the other 3 airplanes had already hit their targets. Some of the passengers used the onboard air phones to report their delay and because of this, learned that this was no “ordinary” hijacking.   The people on board decided that they were either going to take the plane back, or at least stop the terrorists from completing their plot.  They boiled water in the coffee pots, pushed the carts up the aisle and attacked.  From the cockpit audio, (this flight was the only one where the black boxes were recovered intact), we know that they almost made it.  The terrorists tried to severely roll and bank the aircraft as well as putting it into a steep dive.  Apparently they had their own instructions and they chose to crash, right where they were.  They inverted the plane and drove it at a -40 degree down angle into a field among a huge grove of hemlock trees in rural Pennsylvania.  The impact created a huge hole and since the plane still had so much fuel onboard, the fireball burned half of the trees away.  Within 15 minutes Police, Fire and Rescue were at the scene, but all they could do was to put out the flames. 

The site has now been declared a National Memorial and a permanent facility is still under construction and won’t be finished for a few years.  

They have done a fine job building the initial pieces, all of which will be incorporated into the final design.  There is a low black stone wall marking the path from the parking lot to the main memorial.  It sort of zig-zags along in a seemingly random fashion, but it marks the outer limits of the debris field.  They have converted the temporary yellow tape into a more lasting and somber walk.  

Out in the center of the debris field, there is a large granite boulder.  It marks the main impact point where the airplane hit.  Although they managed to recover enough remains to positively identify all of the passengers, crew and terrorists, the force of the impact and the heat of the flames mean that the entire area is still a final resting place.  

Finally, at the end of the walkway is a white marble wall composed of 40 panels.  People leave personal remembrances and tokens at the wall.  

Each panel holds the name of one of the people on that flight.  The wall is aligned towards their final flight path. At the other end of the path, and only 125 miles away is the Capitol of the United States.   “Let’s roll” was one of the final words heard by family on the ground.  They did, and we as a nation are grateful for their sacrifice.  

Ten Years Later

This week we observe and commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Al-Qaida attack on the United States.  For all Americans it was a watershed event.  For those of us who lost friends or family in any of the incidents, it marks another year they will not see, and it is up to us to keep their memories alive.  I have only shot two photos  of the WTC.  Back in 1985, I was in Newport, Rhode Island for a Navy School and took a trip down to visit my friend David Turner.  David is a professional photographer, now teaching in Mass.  He needed to scout out some locations in a cemetery on Staten Island for an upcoming fashion shoot, so we took the ferry over.  My slides have seen better days, but the sunset on the towers was striking. In 2001, like most of the East Coast, I was at work.  I worked in a government building, right in the flight path for the Dulles airport.  When the news of the attacks came, the building was evacuated because no one was certain if there was another plane out there.  We saw the attacks on the Pentagon and as most of the people I work with are military, government or retired from same, we knew that we would recognize someone on the lists.

It wasn’t until several days later that we realized our team’s administrator, who had just moved back to Long Island with her son, did not make it out of the South Tower.  In a sad postscript, a postcard she sent to our wonderful receptionist, showing the WTC with her office circled in ball point pen, arrived the very next day.

In the days just after 9-11 one of the worlds’ best photographers, Joe McNally, started to take photos of the first responders with a huge Polaroid camera.  His 9’ portraits captured the dust, the exhaustion and the determination of the firemen, construction crew and police working around the clock to find remains and clear the rubble.  He wrote about the project on Scott Kelby’s blog this week.   http://www.scottkelby.com/blog/2011/archives/21260   Everyone should read his piece and look at the exhibit on his own site at http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/2011/09/05/a-sense-of-place/   If you are in NYC, go to the free exhibit through the 12th of September.

Now 10 years later we still are fighting against the ideals of the people who launched those attacks.  Here we are still rebuilding.  Some places like the Pentagon were rapidly restored.  Ground Zero in New York is still a work in progress.  But a new building is arising phoenix-like from that deep hole in the ground.  As we think about those days, remember all of those who died there and those who have perished in the fight to root out those who did this.