A Visit to Ground Zero

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Dec 05, 2015

“September 11 is one of our worst days but it brought out the best in us.”
Senator Lamar Alexander

Just about twice a year when our family from Minnesota comes to visit us, we take one day to go to New York City. Each time we go we follow the same routine: get up early; load up into the car; make a quick stop at Dunkin’ Donuts; drive to Trenton, New Jersey; park the car; get the tickets and take the train to Penn Station.

Once we arrive at Penn Station we take a cab to our first destination. At the end of the day we go back through the same routine and, except for not stopping at Dunkin Donuts, we arrive home around 10 pm. 

Over the years we have done all kinds of things. We have eaten at quaint New York delis, Tavern on the Green and the Rock Center Café, which looks out at the ice skaters. 

We have gone to Central Park and to the top of Rockefeller Center. We have taken the cruise around Manhattan on the Hudson River and joined countless New Yorkers and visitors like us on the famous subway system. We have window shopped along Fifth Avenue, actually shopped at the world famous Macy’s on 42nd Street, and visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

We have enjoyed the "Radio City Christmas Spectacular" and "Phantom of the Opera," "The Lion King" and many other Broadway shows. We even attended Carnegie Hall to hear our choir join several other choirs for a night we will never forget. 

But a few months ago our12-year-old grandson, Noah, asked if we could go to the 9/11 Memorial Museum because his class had learned about it that year. From the moment we arrived, we knew our time there would be memorable for all of us, especially Noah. 

The original World Trade Center was a 16-acre commercial complex built between 1966 and 1987. It contained seven buildings, a large plaza and an underground shopping mall. The Twin Towers were attacked by Islamist terrorists on February 26, 1993, killing six people and injuring thousands.

On September 11, 2001, the entire complex was destroyed and along with the plane crashes in western Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, 2,972 people from more than 90 nations were killed. The oldest victim was 85 years old; the youngest was 2. More than 400 people were first responders who gave their lives for others.

We walked around the reflection pools looking at the names of those who died etched in bronze around the perimeter of each pool. We walked under the Survivor Tree, the remaining tree that survivors nursed back to health after it was reduced by the events of that day to an 8-foot-tall stump. 

But it was the 9/11 Museum that we had come to New York City to see. These words from the museum map brochure state the sentiments we all felt as we quickly walked through the exhibits, “Demonstrating the consequences of terrorism on individual lives and its impact on communities at the local, national, and international levels, the Museum attests to the triumph of human dignity over human depravity and affirms all unwavering commitment to the fundamental value of human life.”

From the opening move to the final escalator from the bottom of the museum to the exit doors, words would never capture the emotions that bounced around inside of us. 

We also made a stop at St. Paul’s Chapel. On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States. Afterward, he went to St. Paul’s Chapel to attend services. He could never have known that 212 years later that same chapel would become the spiritual home of Ground Zero.

Noah said it best: “We will never forget.”

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Pa. 
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