Last Saturday, my family and I visited the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York. It was one of the saddest events of my life. I remember 9/11 like it was yesterday. I remember exactly how I felt while it was happening and the simmering anger that remains to this day, but I wasn’t really ready for what the Memorial and Museum had in store for me.
Saturday was, well, overwhelming is the only word I can think of. So much heartache for the survivors, the victims and those they left behind.
The memorial is beautiful, two wells with water flowing into them marking the footprints of the twin towers. The names of all the victims are inscribed into the bonze parapets surrounding the twin Memorial pools. Behind the pools, the new Freedom Tower rises 1,776 feet from street level.
The museum is underground and is filled with all the horror, heroism and humanity of that terrible day. Displays include smashed fire engines and police cars, part of the aircraft that were hijacked and crashed, work ID’s, credit cards, wallets, shoes, rings and assorted other bits and pieces of every day life.
The displays are tasteful and graphic. They show how people lived and died. The parts that choked me up were the voicemails left for and by the victims. LIke the one from United Flight 93 Flight Attendant CeeCee Lyles.
In the end, it was all a little too much for me. I rushed through the last third of the museum. I just could not take any more. It’s all so sad. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.
Stepping outside pushed the sadness a little back into my consciousness. It was a beautiful day, reminiscent of the weather on September 11th, 2001.
I took a deep breath and as I was walking and speaking with my family members, I noticed what I thought was a tissue carelessly discarded on the bronze name plate circling the South Pool. It was, in fact, a wilted carnation, and just a few feet from it was a fresh red rose. The rose as been placed in the “C” in Christopher Quackenbush’s name.
Once I returned home, I took a few minutes to find out who Christopher was.
He was born just a couple of years before I was. He was a founding parter in a law firm with offices on the 104th floor of the South Tower. He was married and had three children. He was an ardent Mets fan and grew up playing with Creepy Crawlers, baseball cards, and pretending he was an astronaut. He drank Tang, “just like the astronauts,” as Madison Avenue repeatedly reminded us all during Saturday morning cartoons.
When I think of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, I think not so much of the 2,996 people killed in the attacks. It’s too big a number to fully comprehend. It’s too abstract. I think about CeeCee Lyles and Christopher Quakenbush and the other individuals I was introduced to at the Museum.
Somebody put a flower in Christopher’s inscribed name, somebody who remembers him and wants the world to know that he’s remembered.
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