Since the attacks, outside of its anniversary date, I hadn’t dwelled on it much. I didn’t arrive in New York City until 2014; this place was unfamiliar to me until then.
In a tradition I started, when a niece turns 16, we go on a trip together. When my niece Aimee said she wanted to go to NYC, I was completely on board. My historic and nerdy soul wanted to drag this poor jock to all the museums, but I let her choose what she wanted to do.
She wanted to hit all the main touristy places, which was fine. And then she added, “I want to go to the 9/11 Museum.”
The what? I did a double take.
She was in the womb when the towers fell. Why on earth would she want to see that when she had no experience with that dark, dark day? Then I realized that she had never lived in a pre-9/11 world. She didn’t know anything prior to that, like I had never known a world without microwave ovens. Her entire life was lived in this shadow of the falling towers.
She was insistent about it, and so we went.
It was the last stop on our trip, after a French breakfast in the financial district, we got in the long line. I had no idea what to expect.
It was like a tomb, because it was. Everyone talked in hushed voices, if they talked at all. Every so often you’d pass someone sobbing quietly. We walked down the staircase that so many survivors did. It looked like it was hit by a bomb. We paused at the blue memorial wall – behind it was the final resting place of the many victims and first responders. That was difficult to take in.
We sat in a room that projected pictures of people who died in the tragedy, with a bit of their life story. We sat there awhile, my niece completely spellbound – drawn in by these ordinary folks, caught up in history. It was personal.
We walked through the main exhibit, where it walks you through the day, phone calls played, news broadcasts, shows, what happened at all the specific times – it was that horrible day all over again. There was a walled off section where you could watch the more sensitive footage from that day. I’m an empath, already overwhelmed by the exhibit and my memories of the day, so I didn’t go. My niece went in and I didn’t stop her. She walked out of the alcove and gulped. “That was…. yeah…” her voice trailed off. She didn’t have to finish her sentence. I knew.
We left heavier than when we arrived. “That was really intense,” I said. “Yeah, it was,” she replied. I shared my story with her, what I was doing, where I was, how I felt. The whole train ride home carried the heaviness of our experience.
“I’m glad that’s the last thing we did,” I said. “I need time to process all that.”
“Me too,” she said.
Here I am, 18 years later, still processing it.