National September 11 Memorial Museum Opens to Families

NEW YORK – The National September 11 Memorial Museum opened on Thursday to survivors, families and rescuers. The curator noted that America has never experienced a day like Sept. 11, 2001.

"We all had our different thresholds about what was the right thing to do," the musuem's curator, Jan Ramirez, said according to CNN . "We want to remind people why 9/11 was unlike any other day the country has experienced. But we did not want to cross a threshold where a visitor's empathy shuts down. That would be a horrible misfire of our objectives."

The museum, which will open to the public on May 21, ahead of Memorial Day weekend, contains 12,500 objects, 1,995 oral histories and 580 hours of film and video detailing the events on and following Sept. 11, 2001. On that day, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, hijacked by terrorists working with Islamic extremist group Al Qaeda, were purposefully crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center, leading to their collapse.

The museum also honors the victims of the WTC Feb. 26, 1993, bombing, where a terrorist attack failed to bring down the towers.

In total, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in the attacks.

The museum "further recognizes the thousands who survived and all who demonstrated extraordinary compassion in the aftermath," the website reads.

"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 an unwavering commitment to the fundamental value of human life."

The museum's opening on Thursday was honored with a ceremony where President Barack Obama was joined by dignitaries and families of the victims.

Obama expressed "deep gratitude to everybody who was involved in that great undertaking … for bringing us to this day, for giving us this sacred place of healing and hope."

"We come together, we stand in the footprints of two mighty towers graced by the rush of the eternal waters," the president stated. "We look in into the faces of nearly 3,000 innocent souls ... women and children of every race, every creed, from every corner of the world."

BBC News reported that the memorial museum cost around $700 million in donations and public money, which includes the nearby memorial plaza. Located at the site of the original WTC towers, it is largely underground.

While the museum was expected to open on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, according to USA Today, soaring costs, weak fundraising and jurisdictional disputes delayed that plan.

A number of controversies have also surrounded the museum, including exhibiting the names and photographs of the hijackers, as well as including an explanatory film about 9/11 that supposedly links Al Qaeda with Islam.

Some members of the victims' families have praised the museum, however, including Paula Berry, who lost her 43-year-old husband, David, in the attacks.

"When I saw it in completion it actually floored me," Berry, who is also a member of the museum's board, said, according to NY Daily News. "It's extraordinarily hard. It's going to be hard for family members to see and re-experience that day."

Ramirez revealed that the museum workers faced a number of "contradictions and dilemmas" over what exactly to show and how much to reveal of the tragedies.

"We decided to take that path. We decided to be ambitious and daring," Ramirez explained. The curator added that the museum is certain to be emotionally overwhelming to anyone who survived the attacks, as well as to all New Yorkers and the millions of people around the world who have seen coverage of the events.

Ramirez noted that she sees herself and her colleagues at the museum as "third responders," whose job is to give meaning to ordinary objects.

"It's a collective story about how people can be good to one another in times of crisis," she said. "We've put out our first draft of history."

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