NEW YORK (Reuters) - A museum
memorializing the September 11, 2001, attacks opens this week to
victims' family members and next week to the public, displaying
artifacts from mangled columns recalling the enormity of that fateful
day to shattered eyeglasses recalling its personal pain.
Visitors to the National September 11 Memorial Museum in downtown
Manhattan descend to exhibitions several stories below street level
to be greeted by a Hudson River retaining wall that survived the
attacks and a column scrawled with numbers of the police and
firefighters who did not.
The museum is the culmination of eight years' work designing the
exhibits, collecting artifacts and settling innumerable disputes
over how best to document the day when hijacked planes slammed into
the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an open field near
Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people.
Battles over oversight and funding slowed construction even as
reconstruction of the larger World Trade Center site was getting
under way. In October 2012, the museum's lower levels were flooded
in Superstorm Sandy.
"The museum is a place where you can come to understand 9/11 through
the lives of those who were killed and the lives of those who rushed
here to help," said former Mayor Michael Bloomberg as he introduced
the museum to members of the media on Wednesday.
Among the most moving displays was a fire engine badly battered in
the collapse of the twin towers, he said.
"All I could think of was, I wonder what happened to the
firefighters that were assigned that day on that engine and whether
they survived and what were their last thoughts if they didn't," he
The museum helps to convey the events and emotions of September 11
by using audio such as telephone messages left to loved ones from
those who would die in the towers, and cockpit recordings from the
Some 35,000 people closely involved in creating the museum,
including victims' relatives, will get a first look in the coming
week. Doors open to the public on May 21.
"It is incredible, and it will wind up affecting different people in
different ways, depending on their experiences," said Joel Shapiro,
whose wife, Sareve Dukat, died in the South Tower.
Shapiro plans to be a docent at the museum, which sought input from
curators, educators, architects, preservationists, family members,
survivors, first responders, local residents, business owners and
A recent controversy involved moving unidentified remains of victims
to the museum site. Some family members said it was wrong to store
them at what is essentially a tourist site.
"Part of the ongoing drama of the site is that you have 3,000
families, and they don't agree with each other," said Richard
Hankin, director of a documentary film "16 Acres" that traced the
contentious rebuilding process.
More than half of the $700 million needed to build the museum and
memorial was raised privately, and about $250 million came from
federal disaster funding.
(Additional reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Scott Malone,
Richard Chang and Gunna Dickson)