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Today is September 11th. It is the 13th September 11th as we know it. I bet everyone reading this blog remembers where they were that Tuesday morning in 2001 when the air was starting to turn from summer to fall. I was a 20 year old watching events unfold from my small Austin apartment with my eyes fixed on the Today Show while getting ready to go to social work classes at the University of Texas. It was chaotic, scary, life altering, and disorienting, but my experience that day was tame compared to that of the friends I would meet a few years later while attending grad school at New York University. Those were tales of real terror, real loss. Marking 9/11 anniversaries with them was something altogether different than from a couple thousand miles away in Texas.
My four year old will never know September 11th in exactly the same way I know it, just as I will never know November 22, 1963, the way that my parents know it. That’s just how life works. Everyone gets a “clean slate” to mark their own first person celebratory and tragic events. However, just as it is important for us to not forget what happened on those dates, it is important for those born later to learn about and integrate the lessons from those days as well.
Even in tragedy there are always lessons. Lessons of resilience, sacrifice, patriotism, compassion, determination, and spirit. There are also people to be remembered. In this case there are 2,977 who perished that day, not counting the unborn babies and those who later developed cancer and illness directly related to the attacks. That number is so large it can start to seem abstract, so think of it this way. Think of twenty full 737s. Twenty full planes. That is about the equivalent of how many people took to the skies or went to work, and never came home due to the attacks that day. Of course even those lucky enough to make it home were likely changed forever.
Enter the 9/11 museum and memorial. The memorial has been open in the footprint of where the buildings once stood for a few years now. My family has visited it on a previous NYC trip. It is a very, very good place to reflect, remember, and learn about those lost thirteen years ago today. However, it doesn’t tell the full story of what happened that day.
For that you need the museum that just opened earlier this year. Especially for those who didn’t live through it, being able to create a connection between themselves and what happened that day is key to learning and remembering. The website describes the exhibit better than I ever could:
“Using artifacts, images, video, first-person testimony, and real-time audio recordings from 9/11, the exhibition provides insight into the human drama underway within the hijacked airplanes, the Twin Towers, and the Pentagon, as well as the courageous actions of first responders and civilians assisting one another, and the experiences of people near and far from the attack sites. As day turned to night, and our collective sense of history had changed: there would now forever be a “before 9/11” and an “after 9/11.”
I hope to visit the 9/11 museum on a trip to NYC later this year. I don’t expect it to be a great place for young kids for obvious reasons, but I think that older school aged kids and teens will have much to learn from a visit. Depending on their age and maturity, your kids may not be ready for every exhibit in the museum, but making history come to life through experiencing it with your own eyes is a key part of travel, and this is now an important part in our country’s history.
If you do plan to visit the museum and memorial, know that tickets for timed entrance can be obtained online and allow extra time for security screenings. Adults are $24 and discounts are available for seniors, veterans, students, and children. Children 6 and under are free, as are 9/11 family members, recovery workers, and active/retired military. Don’t let the price of admission stop you from a visit as everyone can get in complimentary on Tuesday evenings starting at 5PM. A limited number of tickets for the complimentary Tuesday evening admissions are available for online reservation two weeks in advance of each Tuesday evening starting at 9AM.
Even thousands of miles away here in Texas, this generation will always remember, and hopefully the next generation will learn to never forget.