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posted: 8/17/2014 5:45 AM

Visiting 9/11 sites in New York: Memorial, museum, tours

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  • Brenda Berkman, in blue, leads a tour of the 9/11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan. The guides include people who survived the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, or who were connected to the events in some way. Berkman, a retired fire lieutenant, was one of many firefighters who responded to the disaster and who lost many colleagues that day.

      Brenda Berkman, in blue, leads a tour of the 9/11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan. The guides include people who survived the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, or who were connected to the events in some way. Berkman, a retired fire lieutenant, was one of many firefighters who responded to the disaster and who lost many colleagues that day.
    Associated Press

  • One World Trade Center towers over the lower Manhattan skyline in New York. Tourism in sites connected to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, is strong, with millions of people visiting the memorial and hundreds of thousands having already visited the new 9/11 Museum that opened in May.

      One World Trade Center towers over the lower Manhattan skyline in New York. Tourism in sites connected to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, is strong, with millions of people visiting the memorial and hundreds of thousands having already visited the new 9/11 Museum that opened in May.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS/MAY 2014

  • Visitors touch the engraved name of a victim of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York. The memorial has been visited by nearly 15 million people since it opened three years ago on the footprints of the twin towers.

      Visitors touch the engraved name of a victim of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York. The memorial has been visited by nearly 15 million people since it opened three years ago on the footprints of the twin towers.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS/MAY 2014

  • This quote from Virgil is displayed prominently at the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York. More than 700,000 people have visited the museum since its May opening.

      This quote from Virgil is displayed prominently at the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York. More than 700,000 people have visited the museum since its May opening.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS/MAY 2014

  • The 9/11 Tribute Center offers a small, intimate look at the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and also offers walking tours led by individuals connected to the events of that day, including survivors and first responders.

      The 9/11 Tribute Center offers a small, intimate look at the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and also offers walking tours led by individuals connected to the events of that day, including survivors and first responders.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS/9/11 TRIBUTE CENTER

  • A steel beam from the World Trade Center sits at the center of Foundation Hall at the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York.

      A steel beam from the World Trade Center sits at the center of Foundation Hall at the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS/MAY 2014

  • Visitors pay their respects at the pools at the 9/11 Memorial near the World Trade Center in New York. President Barack Obama praised the National September 11 Memorial Museum as "a sacred place of healing and of hope" that captures both the story and the spirit of heroism that followed the attacks.

      Visitors pay their respects at the pools at the 9/11 Memorial near the World Trade Center in New York. President Barack Obama praised the National September 11 Memorial Museum as "a sacred place of healing and of hope" that captures both the story and the spirit of heroism that followed the attacks.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS/MAY 2014

 
By Beth J. Harpaz
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Out-of-towners and locals alike have shown enormous interest in sites connected to the Sept. 11th attacks. More than 700,000 people from all 50 states and 131 countries have been to the National Sept. 11 Museum since it opened May 21. More have come from New York than any other state, but the museum also hosts so many international tourists that you can't even identify all the languages being spoken.

In addition, nearly 15 million people have visited the September 11 Memorial since it opened three years ago on the footprints of the twin towers. That's 1 million more a year than visit the Statue of Liberty.

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And yet the very idea of 9/11 tourism remains controversial to some. Some New Yorkers are still so traumatized they've avoided the area. Others think 9/11 tourism is unseemly, however respectful the intent. Indeed, the memorial plaza could now be mistaken for a leafy urban park, with visitors taking smiling selfies or leaning on bronze parapets that bear the names of the dead. And yet, one could argue that re-creating a sense of normalcy downtown is part of the 9/11 story, too.

"There's this tension between a nice park where you can come out and have your lunch, but you might be sitting next to a family member paying respects to a loved one," said Brenda Berkman, a retired fire lieutenant who was there on Sept. 11, 2001, and worked on the recovery effort. Berkman now leads guided tours from the 9/11 Tribute Center.

For those who do want to visit, pay respects or learn more about the events of 13 years ago, here are some options.

9/11 Memorial

The memorial's waterfalls and twin reflecting pools are set deep in the twin towers' footprints. The pools are surrounded by panels inscribed with the names of the nearly 3,000 people who perished in the attacks, including those who died at the site, on the planes and at the Pentagon. Also listed are six who died in the 1993 Trade Center bombing.

Hundreds of oak trees line the plaza, but be sure to find a tall, callery pear tree called the Survivor Tree, grown from an 8-foot stump found in the rubble of the fallen towers.

The memorial is free and open from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. See 911memorial.org/visit-911-memorial. Visitor passes and security checks are no longer required.

9/11 Memorial Museum

The museum tells the definitive story of the World Trade Center, from construction to destruction to rebirth. Artifacts large and small include tower beams, the Survivors' Stairs used by hundreds to escape, a wrecked firetruck and shoes worn by a photojournalist who was injured that day. You'll hear phone messages left by people trapped in the towers, and if you dare peek behind an exhibit labeled "disturbing," you'll see photos of those who jumped. Numerous videos and photos show Lower Manhattan before the attacks, as the planes hit, while the towers burned, and after they fell as enormous debris clouds covered downtown.

Tissue boxes around the galleries testify to the museum's visceral, emotional impact. But some of the simplest exhibits are among the most memorable. A wall of blue squares represents an artist's effort to remember the sky color that day. And a massive wall bears this quote from Virgil: "NO DAY SHALL ERASE YOU FROM THE MEMORY OF TIME."

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the last entry at 7 p.m. through Sept. 21 (7 p.m. closing after Sept. 21). Get timed tickets online in advance to avoid long waits. Admission is $24. See 911memorial.org.

9/11 Tribute Center and tours

In contrast to the large, formal exhibits of the Memorial Museum, the 9/11 Tribute Center is a small, intimate, low-key place. The walls are covered with victims' photos and missing posters; handmade paper cranes -- a symbol of peace -- hang over a stairwell. It's like looking through someone's scrapbook and sharing memories.

The Tribute Center also offers terrific guided tours of the memorial led by individuals with a connection to Sept. 11th -- first responders, survivors, those who lost loved ones. The tours offer personal memories and insights as well as an informed appreciation of the memorial's design and symbolism. "We try and bring you to that day based on what we witnessed," Berkman said.

The Tribute Center, at 120 Liberty St., is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, with walking tours at 11 a.m., noon, 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Center admission is $15; tours $10; combined admission plus tour is $20. See tributewtc.org.

One World Trade Center

The observatory at One World Trade Center won't open until next year. But the gleaming skyscraper itself, with its trademark spire and graceful angles, can be seen from all over the city.

Apps

Two free, official apps can help you explore the memorial and museum in person or virtually: the 9/11 Memorial Guide and 9/11 Memorial Audio Guide.

Getting there

Access the 9/11 Museum via Liberty and Greenwich streets or Fulton and West streets. Nearby subway stations include Chambers and Fulton street, which are served by many subway lines. The E train has a World Trade Center stop.

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