There is so much more to see. The museum remembers the attack on the Pentagon. It recalls the failed hijack of Flight 93, which was foiled by a group of courageous passengers. There are short documentary films about the destruction and rebuilding of the site, and the rise of the new Freedom Tower.
But it’s the simple human details, like the dust covered shoes preserved in a glass case, or the uniform of FDNY Battalion Chief Ryan, or the half destroyed Engine Company 21 truck led by Captain William Francis Burke, Jr. that shock you with their combination of the everyday and the extraordinary.
Some have already lamented that the new museum has taken their private grief and made it a public tourist attraction, turning the worst day of their lives into a photo opportunity. But I suspect the majority of these critics have yet to visit the museum itself. What I saw was a deeply empathetic and sensitive commemoration of a turning point in human history.
The Irish note is everywhere in this fearful tale, from the beginning to the end. The only standing column from the original building, located near the exit of the museum, contains a prayer by the first recorded victim of the attack, the beloved Father Mychal Judge.
The FDNY chaplain, his impulse on the day was his impulse everyday, to help. His prayer is still helping; it’s the last thing you see there.