60 Minutes: 9/11 Museum, Ground Zero Artifacts & Alice Greenwald

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60 Minutes: September 11 Attacks

Lesley Stahl reflected back to the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. At New York City’s Ground Zero in about one year, the National September 11 Memorial Museum is slated to open. The underground museum has seen its share of obstacles, as organizers faced the challenges of preserving the memories of that infamous day.

60 Minutes: Twin Towers Memorial

Above ground, the site where the Twin Towers once stood has been rebuilt, including a memorial plaza, surrounded by the 2,983 names of victims of the 2011 terrorist attacks. More than seven million have visited the memorial so far.

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Alice Greenwald has the job of telling the complex and emotional story of 9/11. She took 60 Minutes cameras seven stories down, to the museum as a work in progress. Her previous experience includes Washington, D.C.’s Holocaust Museum.

60 Minutes: 9/11 Museum, Ground Zero Artifacts & Alice Greenwald

Lesley Stahl took 60 Minutes inside the 9/11 Museum, under construction, where artifacts and interactive exhibits will tell the story of terror attacks. (littleny / Shutterstock.com)

The museum includes 50-ton beams recovered from the devastation of Ground Zero, as well as the Foundation Hall, which Stahl called “haunting.” The museum is located on the spot where all those people were killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks.

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60 Minutes: Ground Zero Artifacts

“Most museums are buildings that house artifacts. We’re a museum in an artifact,” Greenwald said. It makes visitors conscious of the power of this sacred space.

Four family members who serve on the museum board met with 60 Minutes to talk about their loved ones and the project. “The site radiates something for us all in a very special way,” said Paula Grant Berry, whose husband worked in Tower 2.

The survivors agreed that this space was a very meaningful statement. Greenwald explained that she had to figure out how to start telling the story. It starts with the voices of people worldwide, who recalled where they were when they heard the terrible news in 2001.

60 Minutes: 9/11 Survivors

Greenwald sees everyone as a 9/11 survivor, and the museum’s artifacts also include a Survivor Staircase, down which many people were able to escape during the attacks. Other humongous pieces in the museum include a fire engine, honoring the first responders, and the “last column,” a final remnant from the towers themselves.

There are also interactive elements in the museum, including a simulation from the air of the four planes in the air on that agonizing morning. How do you decide what else to include as evidence of this terrible day in history?

60 Minutes: 9/11 Voicemails

Would you want to use the voicemail recordings left by loved ones who perished in the carnage? That decision weighed heavily on Greenwald.

“Sound can be a more emotional form of communication, because you hear the timbre of the human voice,” she said. A few recordings have been included, with permission from survivors, when they can serve a purpose.

A voicemail from flight attendant Ceecee Lyles to her husband has been included, as evidence of the professionalism of crews on board the hijacked planes.

60 Minutes: September 11 Photos & Video

Beyond the audio, there is plenty of news footage and photography that remain as evidence of these events. Joe Daniels, president of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, witnessed people jumping from the buildings to their own deaths.

“This was a part of the story, that a group of people from…Al Qaeda, put innocent people in a position to have to do that,” Daniels said.

Greenwald agreed that including the shocking and upsetting visuals from that day was necessary to “be true to the story.” How would that sit with family members? Some may never want to see the exhibit, while others want the story to be told in full.

60 Minutes: 9/11 Photos Exhibit

As a compromise, the photos and videos will be located in their own clearly marked exhibit, in an alcove, where patrons and visitors will have the option to avoid the area if they choose.

Then there is the heart of the museum, which preserves the memory of the victims as they lived, using photographs. “The impression will be that you are surrounded by nearly 3,000 faces,” Greenwald said.

The victims were “ages 2 1/2 to 85, from over 90 countries, every sector of the economy, every possible ethnic group,” she added. An interactive element lets visitors learn more about each of the victims, through the eyes of their surviving family members.

60 Minutes: September 11 Cantor Fitzgerald

You can also search the exhibit by company, such as Cantor Fitzgerald, where 658 employees perished. Anthoula Katsimatides was responsible for creating a profile to memorialize her brother. Family members, according to museum representatives, all have their own opinions about the memorial.

The four board members Stahl spoke with confirmed that there was a lot of debate. One hot topic was whether to show the hijackers and Osama Bin Laden at the museum. Some felt it would demean the memories of the victims, while others demanded their inclusion and accountability.

60 Minutes: 9/11 Museum

The takeaway from this story is that the 9/11 Memorial and Museum will be an overwhelming and devastating tribute to those who perished in an unthinkable act of terrorism.

But stories of “heroism and selflessness,” according to Stahl, are also featured in the facility. Tributes will profile recovery workers and the nationwide spirit of unity that sprang up in the aftermath.

The museum will be a place where those too young to have experienced 9/11 firsthand can learn about the history. “This is the way to tell exactly what happened to future generations, so no one ever forgets,” Katsimatides said.

Do you think you will want to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum when it opens in 2014?

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Comments

  1. Susan Bowie says

    Thank you for your moving article on the beautiful 9/11 Memorial Museum. I would suggest that the only appropriate place to exhibit the faces of the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks would be on the floor so that everyone would have to walk on their faces and wipe our shoes on them.

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