NEW YORK (AP) — Tears in her eyes, firefighter widow Maureen Fanning emerged yesterday from the new Sept. 11 museum deep beneath ground zero, unable to bring herself to look at all of it.
“I just think it would be a little too overwhelming today,” she said, unsure when she would return. “It’s a lot to digest, to absorb. Not anytime soon.”
Victims’ friends and relatives, rescue workers and survivors of the terrorist attack descended into the subterranean space and revisited the tragedy as the National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum was dedicated by President Barack Obama as a symbol that says of America: “Nothing can ever break us.”
The museum’s artifacts range from the monumental, like two of the huge fork-shaped columns from the World Trade Center’s facade, to the intimate: a wedding ring, a victim’s voice mail message.
Some relatives found the exhibits both upsetting and inspiring.
Patricia Smith’s visit came down to one small object: the New York Police Department shield her mother, Moira, was wearing 12½ years ago when she died helping to evacuate the twin towers.
Patricia, 14, said she left feeling a new level of connection to her mother. Still, “seeing that, reading the story that goes along with it, even if I already know it, is really upsetting,” she said.
The museum opens to the public Wednesday, but many of those affected most directly by 9/11 explored it yesterday.
Family members also paid their first visits to a repository at the museum that contains unidentified remains from the disaster.
Monica Iken never received her husband’s body. “But he’s here. I know he’s here,” Iken, a museum board member, said after leaving the repository.
Many in the audience wiped away tears during the dedication ceremony, which revisited both the horror and the heroism of Sept. 11, 2001, the day 19 al-Qaida hijackers crashed four airliners into the trade center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in an attack that plunged the U.S. into a decade of war in Afghanistan against al-Qaida’s Taliban protectors.