Sunday, July 6, 2014

One day in New York

This is a pretty introspective post.

I had a free day before the Governors Ball Music Festival started. After checking with my friend E., who kindly let me stay at her apartment in Brooklyn while I was in New York, I decided to travel a day early so I could be in New York for a day. Although I grew up in New Jersey, I grew up far enough from New York (state AND city) that I had only been there a few times. I've spent plenty of time in Philadelphia though! (Insert Philly jokes here.) I am a big art fan, and New York is one of the greatest cities on earth for that.

But in addition, I was interested in seeing the 9/11 Memorial Museum. I was a sophomore in high school on 9/11, and it's something that anyone over the age of...13 (holy whoa) has in common. We were all here, we know what happened. This museum has been a long time coming, and I wanted to see long wrought conclusion. It had just opened a couple of weeks before I visited New York, and I felt that if I didn't go then, I probably never would.

No day shall erase you from the memory of time. --Virgil

This is the only photo I took in the museum. I sat in front of it a lot.

I reserved my ticket online, then arrived at the museum a couple minutes after 11am, when I was scheduled to enter. I went through the metal detector and had my bag checked, then descended into the museum proper. I had to check my bookbag (which I later did at the Museum of Modern Art as well), and at first, I was all right. There's a hallway to enter into the museum that projects photographs on columns in the hallway, along with a map of the east coast spread across a wall, which lit up during the narration that played overhead explaining what happened that day. I pushed past the crowd gathered around the map--I saw the photos and I know play by play what happened on September 11th, and I don't need a recap.

The hallway opens into what used to be one of the lower floors of one of the towers. (I can't remember specifics of numbers and which tower was which because at this point things get blurry.) There's actually a balcony that overlooks a large two story room, which includes the uncovered foundation of one of the towers, and that was the point where things began to travel rapidly downhill for me. I started crying, which I didn't expect--I hadn't brought tissues, and I was paranoid about the hundreds of people around me who were snapping photos and reading the map and talking and laughing and whatever the hell else was going on at that moment. The only way to go was down, further into the large room, which led visitors through the construction of the towers. The escalator was aligned with the survivors' staircase, and I was deposited at the bottom next to the mural above, which is compiled of thousands of tiles made to depict the colour of the sky on September 11th. (Blue. Very blue.) Benches lined the wall opposite the mural.

I attempted to push forward through more of the museum, since I had just entered, after all, and maybe it got better! But it didn't. I couldn't stop crying. I got more and more emotional the deeper in I went, which was really not deep at all--I only got as far as that one room, which has smaller areas dedicated to the victims and some of the artifacts saved from the day. I imagine the museum is in roughly chronological order, since it started with the history of the construction, but between that and the Pentagon and the planes themselves and the vast amount of aftermath...I can't imagine how large the museum actually is. Obviously, I didn't make it through the entire building. I had to sit at one of the benches across from the blue sky mural multiple times, and eventually I had the wherewithal to ask a security guard to help me get out of the building. He walked me back to the main doors. I felt like I had been trapped in there for hours, but I only stuck it out for twenty minutes.

My saving grace was that no one stared at me, and no one behaved as though my actions were abnormal. On the way out, the guard handed me a tissue, but other than that, no one acknowledged that I was upset. And I think that was the healthiest thing for me, and the wisest choice for everyone involved. I spent the rest of the day eating French comfort food and absorbing everything at the Museum of Modern Art, which ended up being far more my speed.

I've been to two Holocaust museums, the one in Washington and the one in New York, and for some reason a lot of arguments surrounding 9/11 call upon the Holocaust in comparison. I was not emotionally moved at either Holocaust museum in the way that I was at the 9/11 Museum. I'm usually not really emotionally moved at all--I have a tendency to internalize, which I understand is not healthy, but that's how I react to most things. But for some reason, the 9/11 Museum was different. I wasn't personally invested in 9/11 in any way--no family members died or were even in New York; all of my family lives in south Jersey, and has for a long time. I have no attachment to New York and have actually always kind of hated it (too loud, too dirty, too crowded, etc.), and no friends were affected by the events of September 11th.

There has been a significant amount of discussion about the 9/11 Museum and the thousands of details regarding its existence, from the location of the museum and its very existence to the fact that it has a gift shop. For what little it's worth, I think that overall, the museum (what of it I saw) is well done. It's hard to make a museum about a topic like this, and it's hard to make money to keep it running (the reason for the gift shop, and the reason for charging admission). It's an essential museum for the people who will live in America and in the world in the future, because otherwise, the memory will weaken. It won't disappear, but consider the emotion of someone who lived through Pearl Harbor versus those of us who were born long after that. There's a detachment. And while the detachment will be there in the future, having a visual reminder in concrete will help others understand.

That said: I don't think I'll never set foot in the museum again. The memorial was beautiful and perfect and I wouldn't mind if I ended up back on the property again. And maybe I'll change my mind someday, but as of right now, I can't envision ever going back in. I had a headache the size of Brooklyn after crying so much, and there's so much I never saw. That I'll never see. And I think it's best that way. The museum exists for a purpose, and it's very important for people to go, people who otherwise have no comprehension of what happened that day. But it isn't the museum for me.

At least no one can say I didn't try.

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