National September 11 Memorial – A Tragic Reflection

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There are many iconic dates in history that will live long in our memories, many of which are great memories while others are unfortunately tragic. The sudden death of Princess Diana on August 31, 1997; The horrific destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina striking the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005…and many more! However, none of these had quite the impact as that morning of September 11, 2001. Ask anyone around the world about this date and I am convinced the majority of responses would be the same. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum offers a tragic reflection on what happened on this day, along with a fitting tribute to those lives that were lost.

twin towers new york city

Tragic Events of 9/11

Life-changing tragedy struck New York City when two commercial planes struck the Twin Towers leaving the world stunned at this moment of terror. Two additional planes were hijacked, one crashing into the Pentagon and another into an empty field in western Pennsylvania about 20 minutes from Washington DC.

world trade center memorial

The mass destruction caused in New York City is unlike anything we have seen before, and truly changed the way we look at the concept of terrorism. Careful calculations and intricate organization went into the planning of this terrorist attack and even to this day it is crazy to think about how this actually happened.

9/11 changed the world

We cannot live in a world of fear and we certainly cannot allow terrorists to determine how we travel or go about our daily lives.

national september 11 memorial

As we look back on those events, it’s difficult to do so without anger given the large number of lives that were lost on this day and in the immediate aftermath. Not only the individuals who were in the Twin Towers were impacted by this devastating event but also the thousands of rescuers in and around New York City that were affected by this.

national september 11 memorial

Today, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum is a poignant remembrance of this iconic day in 2001, along with an opportunity for visitors to learn about everything that went into the rescue efforts after the initial impact.

Visitor Information

Visitors to New York City flock to Lower Manhattan to experience the poignancy and sadness associated with ‘Ground Zero’. There are essentially two components to the memorial: the memorial itself and the museum.

world trade center

If you are planning a quick visit to pay your respects, perhaps stopping by the twin reflecting pools will be sufficient but if you have a little more time you can experience the museum and receive the full self-guided tour. Guided tours are available at an additional cost.

Ticket Type Adults Youth (Age 7-17)
Museum (Self-Guided) $24 $15
Museum (Guided) $44 $35
Museum & Memorial (Guided) $39 $30

**Prices updated as of March 1, 2016 (subject to change). Other tickets are available for senior citizens, US college students and certain groups (FDNY, Retired Military etc.)

New York Pass holders can gain free entry into the self-guided tour of the museum and this was the option we followed. It is a great way to experience this landmark while saving the additional cost of the entry fee.

The Memorial is open from 7:30AM to 9:00PM daily. The Museum is open from 9:00AM to 8:00PM (Sunday to Thursday) and 9:00AM to 9:00PM (Friday to Saturday).

The Exhibits

After passing through a stringent security check, visitors have the option of visiting one of the three main areas. The museum is divided into the following:

  • Historical Exhibition
  • Memorial Exhibition
  • Foundation Hall

Each of the exhibits offers a variety of stories, first-hand experiences, and touching depictions of the tragic events from 9/11.

ground zero fire truck

We started in the ‘Historical Exhibits’ to learn about the events of the day and how they unfolded. Artifacts, images, voice recordings among others are scattered around the museum providing insight into the dramatic scenes that took place at Ground Zero.

national september 11 memorial

Pre-9/11 and post-9/11 up until present day are covered in this part of the museum as we learn about how these events truly changed the world.

world trade center

The ‘Memorial Exhibition’ is a commemorative part of the museum that remembers those lives that were lost on 9/11/01 (along with the former attack on the World Trade Center in 1993).

national september 11 memorial

The ‘Foundation Hall’ is pretty much how it sounds and here visitors can view the slurry wall which remained intact after the collapse of the Twin Towers. This wall was the retaining wall of the World Trade Center that withstood the mass destruction and was left as a reminder of the defiance and determination of New York City and the world in the fight against terrorism.

ground zero slurry wall

The ‘Last Column’ can also be found here and is covered full of memories, mementos and inscriptions of rescue workers and victims that perished during the aftermath.

last column twin towers

The ceremonial removal of this column saw this laid flat and an American flag draped over the top while it was carried away from Ground Zero symbolizing the end of the recovery effort. Today, it is once more standing tall to yet again emphasize the resilience and hope of the community that has come together to recover from this tragedy.

twin towers remnants

A Personal Reflection

Without going into any more detail about the museum because I don’t want to spoil your visit, I want to share my personal reflections on what we experienced. I recall being on the Isle of Arran, off the coast of Scotland when this news hit in 2001 and at the time I probably had no idea of what exactly this meant to the future of our world.

national september 11 memorial

This event didn’t just impact New York City or even the United States, instead, it impacted the whole world. Whether you believe in the fight against terrorism and the present day tactics being used to battle the various terrorist groups around the world, the majority of us can agree that the world is very different because of the al-Qaeda attack on September 11, 2001.

national september 11 memorial

I loved following the stories and photographs of Frenchman, Stephane Sednaoui, who was staying in his apartment in downtown Manhattan only to be awoken by the sound of low-flying aircraft in the immediate vicinity. What Sednaoui didn’t realize was what he heard was the commercial planes about to strike the Twin Towers simultaneously.

september 11 museum

Sednaoui immediately offered his assistance in the search and rescue effort, and over the next few days and weeks, he divided his time between helping and documenting “behind the scenes” footage of the rescuers efforts to save lives and scramble through the carnage.

new york fire department

Commercializing this location is understandably a volatile topic given that many believe this to be a moment in history that should be remembered and not something that you should be looking at making money from.

national september 11 memorial

The memorial itself is a fitting tribute with the two reflecting pools providing a quiet spot for visitors to ‘reflect’ and ‘remember’ those lives that were lost. The names of all those lost are inscribed on the walls of the pools and this is certainly one of the most touching locations I have visited.

ground zero museum

The museum, on the other hand, is a different story. Again, I can understand the logic behind using artifacts and imagery to provide a better understanding of what happened during and after September 11, 2001. However, what I can’t get my head around is having a gift shop selling sweatshirts, mugs, bags and other merchandise.

Is it legitimate to commercialize such a tragedy? I think Diane Horning’s quote below emphasizes the feelings behind this idea.

To me, it’s the crassest, most insensitive thing to have a commercial enterprise at the place where my son died – Diane Horning


September 11, 2001, will be a day that lives long in history, and unfortunately, all for the wrong reasons. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is a way for visitors to pay their respects to all those thousands of lives that were lost on this tragic day. Whether you are in favor of the commercialization of this museum or not, it is undoubtedly an attraction worth visiting to learn more about the detailed truth surrounding what happened in the immediate aftermath of the Twin Towers being struck.

If you plan on visiting the Museum, this is yet another reason that supports the benefit of purchasing the New York Pass. I would suggest allocating quite a bit of time exploring the museum as we spent over two hours walking around and could easily have spent longer.

Do you recall what you were doing on this tragic day in 2001? What are your opinions on commercializing this tragedy by selling memorabilia in the museum gift shop?

Weekend Wanderlust

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Chris Boothman
Chris Boothman is the co-founder of A Brit and A Southerner. Born near Manchester, England, Chris moved to USA in 2006 where he soon after met his wife and travel partner in crime, Heather. They have since embarked on an amazing journey of travel as they challenge others to follow in their paths of working full-time but also being able to travel frequently! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Chris at [email protected]


  1. My daughter is moving to NYC in the fall so I know when I go visit her I will be doing all the touristy things there. The 9/11 memorial and museum springs to mind but I’m not sure I can handle it/ am brave enough knowing how heartbreaking it will be. I appreciate your review – and agree with you about a gift shop (!). Thanks for sharing!

  2. As an Autralian, living in Australia at the time, I vividly remember my brother coming into to wake me up to tell me something horrible had happened in the US. It was all still unfolding. Having now been to NYC (Ground Zero- pre rebuiling and post rebuilding at the Memorial) it still makes me incrediblly sad how much life has changed for New Yorkers, the US and the world. Such a terrible, terrible event to have occurred in our lifetime and I truly hope we never see it again. I visited the memorial when I was last there but the museum was still being put together. It looks fabulous but I thoroughly agree with you re the merchandise. Completely unnecessary and not at all cool. #weekendwanderlust

  3. When I went to NYC, this was the only place that I really really want to visit. I told myself that I will never leave NYC until I visited it and that decision was the best decision I’ve done during that trip. This museum as so moving for me and I was crying almost the entire time. I’m not an American but I felt such a connection with everything that’s displayed in this museum. In the end, I was also very moved by how everyone in NYC stood up and supported each other. I think I spent 3 hours there.

    The gift shop, I agree, was a bit out of the context.

  4. Is the money being used for something good? At the Landmine Museum in Siem Reap, the money goes to the adjacent orphanage. In that case, I’m all for it.
    I’m a little uncomfortable with tourism out of any misery, yet I’ve been to Jewish memorials in Berlin and I’ve followed the trail of resistance fighters around Paris, so I guess I’m part of the problem.
    My point, I guess, is that they can only make it commercial if we let them.

  5. I remember when the terrorist attack happened- I was at the high school and our teacher came to the classroom and said that NYC was attacked. There was immediately a minute of silence and everyone was so shocked. My country suffered through a terrible war not that long ago (Croatia) so I know how this sort of memorials are important but then again gift shops and commercialization is so wrong.


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