NEW YORK (AP) — Tears in her eyes, firefighter widow Maureen Fanning emerged Thursday 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.
David Greenberg, who lost a dozen colleagues who met for breakfast at the trade center’s Windows on the World restaurant on Sept. 11, called the museum “breathtaking, awe-inspiring and emotional.”
“You have your moments when there can be solitude, moments when there can be happiness, and a mixture of emotions through the entire museum,” said Greenberg, who worked at an office nearby.
The museum opens to the public Wednesday, but many of those who were affected most directly by 9/11 could start exploring it Thursday.