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We all remember what we were doing and where we were when we heard about the September 11th, 2001 attacks. Moreover, in my case, I had the opportunity to see the twin towers with my own eyes in the 1990s… The 9/11 memorial is located exactly where the twin towers were. Underground, there’s also the 9/11 museum allowing to learn more about this sad day. Visiting the 9/11 memorial and the 9/11 museum is indispensable when visiting New York.
The 9/11 memorial
As I said, the 9/11 memorial is located where the twin towers were. Those are two pools measuring 54 meters (176 feet) by 54 meters, meaning slightly smaller than the towers’ actual footprints (69% of the original size). There are also two waterfalls. The construction of the 9/11 memorial started in August 2006. The memorial was designed by architects Michael Arad and Peter Walker.
The 9/11 memorial opened on September 11th, 2011, meaning exactly ten years after the attacks, in the presence of Barack Obama, George W. Bush and their spouses. It’s a tribute to the victims of the September 11 attacks but also the February 26th, 1993 attack. Those two attacks created in total 2983 victims.
Around the two pools, you’ll find the names of all the victims. On some names, you’ll see sometimes a flower. Indeed, there’s a flower on the victims’ name who were supposed to celebrate their birthday that day. Around the memorial, you’ll also find memorial plaza. On the plaza, they planted 415 oak trees to give a sense of hope and revival. Not far from the memorial, there’s also the survivor tree, a pear tree that somehow “survived” the attacks.
Every September 11th, there’s a ceremony for the victims’ families called tribune in light. From the memorial, two blue beams of light are projected in the sky. They represent the two towers, and they’re visible from afar. Those two beams of light are projected from 6pm to the sunrise the day after. I give all the info at the end of the article, but let’s first visit the 9/11 museum.
The 9/11 museum
The 9/11 museum is about 21 meters (70 feet) below ground. The atmosphere is heavy, the place isn’t very lit, an uncomfortable silence overwhelms the place. The 9/11 museum opened in May 2014, and it allows to find out in detail what happened that day through photos, videos, documents…
We start our visit in the foundation hall, a huge room where you’ll find the last column, a steel pillar from the original World Trade Center. It’s about 10 meters (32 ft.) high and you’ll find messages, souvenirs and posters put on it by rescue workers and family members of the deceased.
The Historical exhibition
We then visit two exhibitions. First off the historical exhibition, telling in detail the chronology of September 11th, from the morning to the evening (interrupted TV news, planes crash, detailed description of rescue operations…).
We learn again that four planes leaving Boston, Newark and Washington were hijacked by terrorists. Two of them crashed into the twin towers and one into the Pentagon. The last one was targeting the White House but crew members learned through phone calls what was going on and tried to seize control of the plane. The last plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The attacks killed 2977 people.
In this exhibition, there’s a timeline of the attack minute after minute. The north tower of World Trade Center was hit at 8:46am and the south tower at 9:03am. The pentagon was hit at 9:37am and the last plane crashed in the countryside at 10:03am. The south tower collapsed at 9:59am, and the north tower collapsed at 10:28am.
The historical exhibition reminds us that there had already been an attack targeting the World Trade Center on February 26th, 1993. A truck bomb exploded at 12:18pm, killing six people and injuring over one thousand. Ramzi Yousef, one of the mastermind behind the bombings, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Regarding the 2001 attack, fragments of the tower are exhibited, they broadcast a movie about the reconstruction of the tower… There’s also a room with a warning : it’s not for the faint of the heart. In the room, we can see photos of people throwing themselves from the top of the towers…
The Memorial exhibition
The memorial exhibition is the second of of the museum, in homage to the victims. We can notably see the wall of faces, a wall with photos of the 2983 victims of the attacks. There’s information about each victim (info given by the victims’ relatives). It’s possible to do a research by name or by nationality.
In this exhibition, there are personal effects of the victims found by the rescue workers : shoes, glasses, wallet, ID, cellphone, teddy bear… and objects found in the rubble, firefighter helmets, a burnt truck… You can also listen to recorded audio from people seeing their death coming. It’s poignant, really.
There’s also a whole part explaining how we got to this point. The context is really interesting, they give details about what was at stake regarding international politics… There’s also an area explaining the influence of the attacks on sport (basketball, football…).
To me, you cannot miss the 9/11 memorial and the 9/11 museum when visiting New York. But you need to know some parts of the museum are quite hard. Do what seems best to you but I suggest not to go there with kids. Finally, you need to know it’s forbidden to take photos in some parts of the museum, especially the wall of faces.
To conclude, after your visit to the museum, you can go to One World Trade Center, a few minutes away. It’s a big skyscraper and you can get on top of it to admire the view. Click here to buy your skip-the-line ticket.
How to get to the 9/11 memorial
The 9/11 memorial and the 9/11 museum are located in Lower Manhattan. There are numerous subway stations in the surroundings. WTC Cortland on line 1 is the closest subway station but there are other ones. Here’s how to use the NYC subway!
9/11 memorial price
It’s free to access the 9/11 memorial.
9/11 memorial hours
The memorial is open everyday from 7:30am to 9pm, except on September 11th. That day, there are commemorations in tribute to the victims and the memorial is open from 3pm to midnight.
9/11 memorial museum price
However you’ll have to pay to get in the 9/11 museum. It’s 24 dollars, and you have to pan an extra 7 dollars to get an audio guide. Get there at opening time, it’s crowded and the wait is long to get in. Otherwise you can buy a skip-the-line ticket online. You won’t wait and you’ll have a guide with you. Click here to buy it. FYI, the museum is free on Tuesdays from 5pm to 8pm (last admission at 7pm).
9/11 museum hours
The 9/11 museum is open everyday from 9am to 8pm. However it’s closed on September 11th.
How long to visit the 9/11 museum
It should take about two hours to visit the 9/11 museum. There’s a cloakroom if needed for your jackets, bags, umbrella… Regarding the memorial, it’s up to you!
9/11 memorial tips
- If you plan to visit many monuments and museums in New York, get a New York Pass. You get access to many places with the pass, including the access to the 9/11 museum. Click here to buy it.
- Traveling soon? Check out my travel resources page! This list of travel accessories can also be useful!
- Do not go to the US without a travel insurance! Here’s why get a travel insurance!
- Likewise, if you arrive from abroad, you’ll have to provide proof of onward travel!
- Want a tailor-made trip to the US? Get a free quote here!
- Always use a VPN when traveling. I use ExpressVPN and I love it. Here’s why use a VPN when traveling.