A museum now stands on the World Trade Center site. The first exhibit is a photograph of the New York skyline on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, taken from the harbor. The photograph is taller than our guide. The sky is a beautiful blue, white at the center to dark at the corners, no clouds.
From there, we walk through a darkened room interspersed with rectangular columns. Words appear on the surfaces as they are spoken on the sound system, recordings of voices from that day. A ramp leads downward. Alongside the descent is the concrete staircase that was the escape route for those who survived.
Below, 2,983 sq. ft. of the wall is covered with sheets of paper, each the color of a piece of the sky, in memory of the people who died that day. Within the blue tiles is the quote from Virgil’s “Aeneid,” “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”
From there, the tour leads through the artifacts of the attack. The antenna from Tower Number One pierced the core of the tower like a needle in the collapse. A column cut at an angle, its cross-section the width of a coffin, stood as the first in a long line of steel squares sliced at floor level that formerly supported the tower.
An elevator motor that sped the building’s inhabitants up and down from floor to floor on normal days fell on the truck of Ladder Company Number Three and bent the ladder down like the tail of a beaten dog.
Columns that once ascended 100 stories or so were sliced into story-sized pieces, twisted and dented where the nose of the plane hit. The slurry wall that held back the water-soaked subterranean soil of the island stood exposed with nodules of bolt caps in phalanxes ascending its face.
Here the last column stood painted in white, yellow, orange and red letters, graffiti memorials to those who died here, inscribed in the days following the disaster.
Nearby, a glass case contained the axe and a photograph of a fireman who fell on that spot. Those are the photographs I took. In the archive, where cameras are forbidden, the images I saw are burned forever into the emulsion of my mind.
*Top image: John Ward on the Staten Island Ferry before the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Photo by Paula Ward.