It has been more than 12 years since terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City. The grounds where the trade center’s North and South Towers once stood are now called Ground Zero. Last Thursday, Ground Zero was a place of sorrow and closure, celebration and silence. An estimated 700 people went there to attend the opening of the National September 11 Memorial Museum.
An atmosphere of shared mourning and public satisfaction filled a large underground room at the start of the hour-long ceremony. The crowd listened as the Young People’s Chorus of New York City performed “The Star Spangled Banner”.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the chairman of the memorial museum.
“This museum, built on the site of rubble and ruins, is now filled with the faces, the stories and the memories of our common grief and our common hope. It is a witness to tragedy. It is an affirmation of human life. It’s a reminder to us and to all future generations that freedom carries heavy responsibilities, and it is reflection of our belief that the true hope of humanity resides in our compassion and our kindness for one another.”
Another speaker at the ceremony was President Barack Obama. He spoke of the museum and its pictures, oral history recordings, pieces of wreckage and other objects. He says they combine to tell the human stories of the September 11th attacks.
Very personal objects bring the tragedy home to visitors. One example is a broken watch. Its hands stopped when a hijacked airplane hit the building.
The collection also includes the shoes Florence Jones was wearing that day. She had walked down to safety from the World Trade Center’s 75th floor. She then walked another 50 city blocks to a friend’s office. When she heard that museum officials were looking for donations, she remembered her ruined shoes.
“I had put them in a plastic container, and when I took them out, they still had the smell on them from that awful day. And I knew I would never wear them again. So I decided to donate them here. I wanted my nieces and my nephew and every person that asked what happened to see them and maybe understand a little bit better what it felt like to be ‘us’ on that day.”
These and other speeches made for an emotionally difficult ceremony. Many people seemed both touched and thankful when LaChanze went to the front of the room to sing. She was eight months pregnant with her second child when her husband was killed in the 2001 attacks.
Near the end of the ceremony, Michael Bloomberg seemed to speak for many of those in attendance. He noted that, “There are hard lessons to be learned, but also shafts of light that can illuminate the days ahead.”
I’m June Simms.