Reflecting on 9/11 and the Memorial Museum

If you ask any American who was alive and lucid on September 11, 2001, he or she can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing the moment they heard about the Twin Towers. I remember I was a sixth grader walking outside our classroom during morning recess when people started crowding the TVs in the classrooms. We were so confused, was this really happening?

There are significant moments in a nation's history that changes the course of the country just like when America won its independence from Great Britain and when the North won the Civil War. The 9/11 bombing was one of those moments. It's hard to explain to Americans born after 9/11, but almost overnight, it became harder to travel, the country went into a state of paranoia, and Congress decided they needed to defend the country by declaring war and sinking billions into a search for weapons of mass destruction that never existed.

Repercussions aside, 9/11 was a tragic and devastating incident on American soil. Many lives were lost and brave responders also put their lives on the line. That day, it didn't matter what color we were or what language we spoke, we came together as Americans to mourn and help each other recover.

The new One World Trade Center stands beautifully at Ground Zero. The two breathtaking reflecting pools give visitors a sense of how awesome the towers were. The whole site really does justly honor the victims. And then there is the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

I had heard the 9/11 Memorial Museum was a very emotional experience, especially for Americans who lived through it, so I really looked forward to the visit. As I walked through the exhibits, it was emotional indeed. Tears came when I watched a replay of the towers falling. I felt anguish when I heard the firsthand accounts. The artifacts and quotes were touching and powerful. The whole museum was very somber, but it's this last point that evoked an emotion inside me I didn't expect: anger.

Perhaps it's my personality. I'm not the kind of person who dwells on the past, and maybe that's why I avoid Holocaust museums. The Diary of Anne Frank and World War II was a notable part of my American schooling and that included visiting Holocaust museums. I'm not trying to be disrespectful because like 9/11, the Holocaust was an even greater tragedy, but so many museums and memorials curate the same stereotypical experience leaving patrons with the same depressing emotions with the message that the Holocaust was horrible. I get it, but can we move past it already? Am I cruel to say that?

The Holocaust and the study of the Holocaust is what’s occurring in the vast majority of other museums of Jewish history,” Tad Taube, the San Francisco-based real estate developer and major donor to the museum, told me this week. “We need to move beyond the Holocaust.
— Jewish History is Not Just About the Holocaust. Finally, a Museum Gets That.

To me, going through the 9/11 Memorial felt like going through a Holocaust museum. The lighting was dark, the topic was grave, and there were rare moments I felt uplifted. As a citizen living in post 9/11 America, its disheartening to leave a memorial and realize that our country is still wallowing in this pain. The ugliness from our current political landscape is proof enough, and we continue to live each day reminded by policies that supposedly protect us.

Perhaps it's also my personality to have hope. I think what makes Americans different from other citizens of the world is our optimism. We have hope in reaching our ambitions. We have hope for a brighter future. We have hope in the American Dream. Maybe it's naive, but it's inherent to who we are, and I wish the 9/11 Memorial Museum left me with a lot more hope than it did.

Jo An Japanese: Who Would Have Guessed Kentucky

My company is headquartered in the Midwest, an area where people favor land-based animals as their meat of choice… which makes sense when you can’t get fresh seafood since there’s no access to water. Unfortunately, that becomes an issue for people like me who love sushi. Good news is, the best sushi spots are quickly noticed and then circulated around.

And that is how I discovered Jo An. If my co-workers never told me about it, I don’t think I would have ever ventured into an office park expecting to find a sushi restaurant in one of those bland, brown buildings. The location is so hidden that I had to circle back a couple of times just to notice that there is a little placard sitting on the side of the road providing a much-needed arrow pointing towards the restaurant. The story goes, Jo An was established because of the Japanese Toyota execs who were fed up with eating American food whenever they were visiting the nearby Toyota plant. 

I came really early because I had an evening flight to catch (it’s located an exit away from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport), and I was alone in the restaurant, seated at the sushi bar. I was a bit skeptical at first when I was watching the sushi chef prepare my nigiri with plastic gloves, but as I uttered “Itadakimasu” out of respect, his ears perked up, and he had a huge smile on his face. “I have not heard that phrase in a long time!” he responded, and he instantly asked me, “Are you from around here?” It made me laugh. It was clear that this cute old Japanese man had been out of his cultural element for way too long.

Considering fish has to be shipped from either the West or East Coast, the fish was surprisingly fresh for Midwest standards! I had extremely low expectations, but the sushi was much better than anything I have had in some cities (i.e. Charlotte, NC). I could tell the fish had been quality cuts, but just not as fresh as it could have been if it were anywhere else besides the middle of the country. The hamachi and saba were pretty good, but the uni fell short - you could taste that it had been sitting out for a while (maybe even a day old…). Overall, though, it is definitely a find and a place that I would highly recommend for sushi if you’re out in the Midwest.

As I left the restaurant, I felt a little sad for the Japanese restaurant employees who do not get a chance to interact with their culture as much in Kentucky. However, I bet those Toyota execs are paying them good money to stay there. And as long as they are there, I will make sure to pay them a visit with the few phrases of Japanese I know… so they know that there are sushi-loving customers out there who appreciate their work and tenure.

Tsukushinbo, My New Neighborhood Sushi Restaurant

Ikura sake nigiri; ginger scallion saba nigiri; quail egg & ebi nigiri; unagi-stuffed tamago from the Omakase (Chef’s Selection) @ Tsukushinbo in International District - Seattle, WA

I have fallen in love with this place… so much that I frequent it on average about once a week (and I have only moved to Seattle a little under two months ago). Sho is amazing, as you can see from his creations, and he will tell you straight up whether what’s in stock today is fresh.

Uhhh… I wouldn’t have the uni today. Come back Wednesday or Thursday.

A respect for fresh, high quality ingredients, being honest with the customer, and serving delicious food: in my opinion, that’s the gold standard.

The omakase gives the chef a chance to express his creativity, but if you’re looking for authentic, traditional Japanese - this is also the place to go. Although not pictured here, I had the sashimi dinner and chirashi before trusting Sho with the omakase venture.

Tsukushinbo is one of the best sushi restaurants I have ever been to, so if you are in Seattle and you have not been here… you are definitely missing out.