9/11 memorial museum

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.