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Visiting the National September 11 Museum on Opening Day (May 21, 2014) was my pilgrimage of sorts. It was a solemn, emotional and a very personal experience for me. I’ll writing more about the experience in my next post. Here are some of the images I captured on this historic day. (The taking of photographs is off limits in many areas of the museum.)
Today is a day of Remembrance. Eleven years ago the world changed… at least my world changed. Every generation has defining moments that go straight to the core of their being. September 11th, 2001 in mine. I thought I’d share an excerpt from my play, September’s Heroes in honor of the occasion.
To the Wife of Falling Man:
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before.
For over 10 years you’ve awakened in the middle of the night, crying, reaching out to the emptiness in the bed beside you. Reaching out for the man that you adored. Gasping for breath between sobs and clutching the pillow where he once so peacefully slept.
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before… saying your last goodbyes. You’ve played those moments over and over in you head…things that you thought…things you should have said. Just another morning… a beautiful, extraordinary September day.
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before… the moment you heard… time forever frozen on that day. Playing over and over… slow motion in your head. The pain you felt… the pain you feel today.
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before…rushing across the room… embracing your child when they were sent home from school. Looking in your child’s eyes… his eyes…his eyes…I can’t imagine what you thought, or what you said.
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before…reporters at the funeral asking for you…asking you to identify pictures… pictures you’d already seen… pictures that made you turn away. Pictures of your brave, daring falling
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before…the story you created to get you through the day… day after day. What had happened…what it was like… playing like a movie in your head.
You and I had only met once, so very long ago. The fact that you honor me, remember me in your movie… flatters me to no end.
It was just another day, like so many before. It was only Tuesday but he was excitedly telling me of the weekend plans you had in store. When the chaos broke out, explosions ripping through the floor, your brave and dashing hero, covered me… shielded me… protected me… as if I were you.
He helped me up… and it was if we floated… almost like a dream. Death and destruction surrounded us… and nothing in between. As we stood shaking… trembling, staring out through the smoke and the fire. We knew this was the end. Knowing we would never say goodbye. Staring… staring… staring through the hole… at the clear, blue September sky.
He grasped my hand so tightly and walked me towards the light. He turned ever so sweetly… and said, “This is for my wife.” He embraced me and he kissed me standing on the brink of time… a single tear rolled down his cheek, and he turned back towards the sky. I knew then in that moment what he was going to do. I looked at him, so peaceful… all his thoughts on you… he was gone in one quick moment… but he didn’t jump, he flew.
The scene ends so abruptly… goes instantly to black… but no credits role… just emptiness and silence… the silent screams deep in your soul.
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before… you take a deep breath… you remember… and life goes on once more.
— from September’s Heroes by Jeff Linamen, originally produced October 2011, Bartlett High School.
Thursday was a huge day for us, to say the least. It’s hard to believe how fast the week has gone and I can’t say I was looking forward to returning home.
I’d gotten our passes for the 9/11 Memorial prior to our trip and we were the first group of the day. You have to go through all the same security procedures as you do when you fly, so the process takes a little while and you can not enter the site without passes.
Having had my play, September’s Heroes produced by Bartlett High School last Fall, this visit held a special importance to me. I will be forever emotionally tied to the tragic events of more than ten years ago and needed to pay my respects and hoped it would help my ongoing grieving process.
Currently the memorial is surrounded by construction on all sides. The new World Trade Center is quickly climbing into the sky adjoining the memorial and the 9/11 Museum which is set to open later this year. Right now, you can visit the two mammoth pools that mark the footprint of the original North and South Towers of the original World Trade Center. Surrounding both pools are all the names of those that lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks, including those at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
The moment that hit me hardest was finding the name of Kevin Cosgrove, who’s devastatingly powerful 911 call from the South Tower, up to the moment it fell, was the inspiration behind one of the segments of my play. Seeing his name brought back all the memories. I walked around both pools, trying to read all the names, never wanting to forget that moment. It will always be a part of me.
When we left the memorial, we headed down to Battery Park and decided to take the ferry to Ellis Island. I hadn’t realized that Michael had never been to the park. The damaged Sphere from the World Trade Center Plaza is displayed there and you have a great view of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.
We got tickets and went through security (again) and boarded the ferry. The Statue of Liberty is closed for renovations at the base level, so we opted to stay on the boat (you can still walk around Liberty Island) and just go to Ellis Island. I’d been to the statue before, walked up to the crown, in fact, but in all my trips to New York, I’d never visited Ellis Island.
I believe most of the buildings surrounding the main building are being renovated. The main building houses Registry Hall where new immigrants to America waited for processing. There are a lot of exhibits in rooms surrounding the great hall, full of pictures and information about the many years when Ellis Island was a working, entry point into the United States. As far as I’ve been able to research over the years, none of my ancestors came through here. There are many ways you can search, by computer or with assistance (and an appointment) for records of those that arrived.
One of the reasons I chose to visit on this trip, is my work on the production of RAGTIME at school. I hoped visiting would give me some additional knowledge I could bring back to the students of Bartlett High.
There is a scene in the show that depicts the immigrants arrival and I found a lot of good information about how the immigrants lived once they had been processed and struggled to survive in their new world.
A funny side note– while we were waiting for the ferry back to Manhattan, one of our New York friends sent Michael a text asking him if we were ready to slit our wrist yet… knowing we’d seen two heavy plays the day before, and then visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Ellis Island (maybe you had to be there).
We had enough time to stop at our hotel and freshen up before our final show, number twelve… the Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar.
This was not a good choice to end our trip.
The best way I can describe the show is a huge mish-mash of costumes, time periods and effects… or a big conglomerate mess. From hip hop and Glee to time lords (or Star Wars) and leather…. it didn’t appear anyone could make up their minds what to do with this production. I felt that with all the technology they were using, this was the worst lighting of any show we’d seen. They didn’t even use their CNN-style scrolling ticker effectively. Just a mess. I won’t even get in to the casting or the switching of who sings what… Just an emotionless mess. I’d wished we’d seen Godspell instead.
As is our tradition, we stopped on the way back to the hotel and picked up a pizza from Famous Famiglia in Times Square and called it a night.