Just beyond the reflective pools of the September 11 Memorial is the National September 11 Memorial Museum. Architecturally intriguing and deeply moving, its collection of artifacts, video, photographs and audio create a dignified, reflective exploration of the day of the tragedy, the events that preceded it (including the WTC car-bombing of 1993), and the stories of grief, resilience and hope that followed.
From the museum's glass entry pavilion – which eerily evokes a toppled tower – escalators lead to the museum's subterranean galleries. On the descent, visitors stand in the shadow of two 70ft-high steel tridents, originally embedded in the bedrock at the base of the North Tower. Looking like giant, rusty forks, these scorched survivors are two of many objects that bear silent witness to the attacks. Among them is the so-called Survivors' Staircase, used by hundreds of people to flee the WTC site. There's the last steel column removed from the clean-up, adorned with the messages and mementos of recovery workers, first-responders and loved ones of the victims. And then there's the New York City Fire Department’s Engine Company 21, its burnt-out cab a piercing testament to the inferno faced by those at the scene.
The most haunting exhibition is arguably In Memoriam, its walls lined with the names and photos of those who perished. Interactive touch screens and a central reflection room offer more comprehensive information about the victims.
To minimize queuing, purchase tickets online or at one of the vending machines outside the museum building.