Sept. 11 museum is called a monument to unity
May 14, 2014 12:00 PM | 672 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, Chairman of the Sept. 11 Museum, with museum President Joe Daniels, addresses a news conference in the venue, in New York, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Leaders of the soon-to-open Sept. 11 museum are portraying it as a monument to unity and resilience. (AP Photo)
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, Chairman of the Sept. 11 Museum, with museum President Joe Daniels, addresses a news conference in the venue, in New York, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Leaders of the soon-to-open Sept. 11 museum are portraying it as a monument to unity and resilience. (AP Photo)
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Visitors to the Sept. 11 Memorial, left, peer at pair of World Trade Center tridents, that once formed part of the exterior structural support of the east facade of the building, in the Sept. 11 Museum, in New York, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Leaders of the soon-to-open Sept. 11 museum are portraying it as a monument to unity and resilience. (AP Photo)
Visitors to the Sept. 11 Memorial, left, peer at pair of World Trade Center tridents, that once formed part of the exterior structural support of the east facade of the building, in the Sept. 11 Museum, in New York, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Leaders of the soon-to-open Sept. 11 museum are portraying it as a monument to unity and resilience. (AP Photo)
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A pair of World Trade Center tridents, that once formed part of the exterior structural support of the east facade of the building, stand in the Sept. 11 Museum, in New York, Wednesday, May 14, 2014.Leaders of the soon-to-open Sept. 11 museum are portraying it as a monument to unity and resilience. (AP Photo)
A pair of World Trade Center tridents, that once formed part of the exterior structural support of the east facade of the building, stand in the Sept. 11 Museum, in New York, Wednesday, May 14, 2014.Leaders of the soon-to-open Sept. 11 museum are portraying it as a monument to unity and resilience. (AP Photo)
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This June 16, 2011 file photo shows a fire-scorched cab of a New York City Fire Department truck, damaged in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in storage at JFK Airport in New York. The truck will be on display in the 9//11 museum that will be dedicated Thursday, May 15, 2014, in a ceremony attended by President Barack Obama. It will open to the public May 21. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
This June 16, 2011 file photo shows a fire-scorched cab of a New York City Fire Department truck, damaged in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in storage at JFK Airport in New York. The truck will be on display in the 9//11 museum that will be dedicated Thursday, May 15, 2014, in a ceremony attended by President Barack Obama. It will open to the public May 21. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
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NEW YORK (AP) — Leaders of the soon-to-open Sept. 11 museum portrayed it as a monument to unity and resilience ahead of its dedication Thursday, saying that the struggles to build it and conflicts over its content would be trumped by its tribute to both loss and survival.

"It tells how in the aftermath of the attacks, our city, our nation and people across the world came together," former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the memorial foundation's chairman, said at a news conference Wednesday. "This museum, more than any history book, will keep that spirit of unity alive."

After Thursday's dedication, then six days of being open around-the-clock to Sept. 11 survivors, victims' relatives, first responders and lower Manhattan residents, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum opens to the public May 21. It is a testament to how the terrorist attacks that day shaped history, from its heart-wrenching artifacts to the underground space that houses them amid the remnants of the fallen twin towers' foundations.

As museum leaders see it, it is both a site of remembrance and a palpably physical forum for examining the post-Sept. 11 world. To museum Director Alice Greenwald, "it is about understanding our shared humanity"; to Bloomberg, a reminder "that freedom is not free."

Yet the memorial also reflects the complexity of crafting a public understanding of the terrorist attacks and reconceiving ground zero.

Over the years, the museum faced financing squabbles and construction challenges. The museum and the memorial plaza above it cost a total of $700 million to build and will cost $60 million a year to run, more than Arlington National Cemetery and more than 15 times as much as the museum that memorializes the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Sept. 11 museum organizers have noted that security alone costs about $10 million a year.

Conflicts over the museum's content underlined the need to memorialize the dead while also honoring survivors and rescuers, of balancing the intimate with the international.

Holocaust and war memorials have confronted some of the same questions. But the 9/11 museum exemplifies the work it takes to "develop a museum program amidst this range of powerful feelings and differing individuals and issues that get raised," said Bruce Altshuler, the director of New York University's museum studies program. He isn't involved in the Sept. 11 museum.

The museum harbors both personal possessions and artifacts that became public symbols of survival and loss. There is the battered "survivors' staircase" that hundreds used to escape the burning skyscrapers, the memento-covered last column removed during the ground zero cleanup and the cross-shaped steel beams that became an emblem of remembrance. (An atheists' group has sued, so far unsuccessfully, seeking to stop the display of the cross).

Portraits and profiles describe the nearly 3,000 people killed by the Sept. 11 attacks and the 1993 trade center bombing. Almost 2,000 oral histories give voice to the memories of survivors, first responders, victims' relatives and others. In one, a mother remembers a birthday dinner at the trade center's Windows on the World restaurant the night before her daughter died at work at the towers.

The museum also looks at the lead-up to Sept. 11 and its legacy — and that has sparked some of the controversy it has faced.

Members of the museum's interfaith clergy advisory panel raised concerns that it plans to show a documentary film, about al-Qaida, that they said unfairly links Islam and terrorism. The museum has said the documentary is objective; Bloomberg said it took care "to make sure that nobody thinks a billion people who practice one religion were responsible."

While some Sept. 11 victims' relatives have embraced the museum, others have denounced its $24 general-public ticket price as unseemly and its underground location as disrespectful, particularly because unidentified remains are being stored in a private repository there. Other victims' families see it as a fitting resting place.

Charles G. Wolf, who lost his wife, Katherine, said he felt the tug of mixed emotions as he anticipated seeing the museum Thursday.

"I'm looking forward to tomorrow, and I'm dreading tomorrow," he said Wednesday. "It brings everything up."



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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