NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The massive, iconic artifacts that will be displayed at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum will include mangled steel, a building column and the stairs that survivors used to escape the World Trade Center towers before they collapsed.
As the 12-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people approaches, a group of reporters, including WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell, toured the museum, which is nearing completion.
A vast space that travels down to the bedrock upon which the towers were built, the museum winds its way deeper and deeper underground, taking visitors on a journey to the very bottom.
The first relics that visitors will see are two massive pieces of structural steel that rose from the base of the North Tower. Now the rusty red columns soar above ground into the sunlit glass atrium that encloses the entrance to the museum.
The cavernous, dusty space also currently houses a large bent and twisted piece of steel from the World Trade Center.
“The reason it’s bent back was actually because of the nose of Flight 11 impacting the North Tower, and we call that ‘impact steel,'” Joe Daniels, the museum’s president, explained.
Daniels also showed reporters a section of the “slurry wall” that held back the Hudson River after the attacks and a column that was the last piece of steel to be removed from the site.
But perhaps the most chilling part of the museum, in its current form, is a battered staircase that leads down to bedrock, where the exhibits will be displayed. Sandwiched between an escalator and a staircase that will be used by museum visitors, the “survivors’ stairs” provided an escape route for hundreds of people who fled from the towers.
“You’re literally following the same pathway that hundreds followed on 9/11 to survival, to safety,” said museum director Alice Greenwald. “In some respects, what we’re saying to our visitors is, we all live in a world now that was defined by this event. And in that sense, we’re all survivors of 9/11.”
As CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes reported, the museum will also feature a display showing grappler claws lifting tangled steel and debris from the pile at ground zero. Engineers would use the claws to pick up debris out of the ground while workers searched for human remains.
“This is the kind of information that this museum will share,” Greenwald said. “It is about the worst of humanity that was demonstrated on Sept. 11 and the best of who we can be.”
There are more relics, some of them shrouded in plastic or white drapery, awaiting their public debut:
- The “flag steel” shaped like a ribbon that resembled a flag blowing in the breeze.
- The T-shaped steel column and crossbeam that became known as the “World Trade Center cross,” a piece of the rubble that became a symbol of hope to hundreds of recovery workers.
- The fire truck from Engine Company 21, whose cab was destroyed while the rest of the truck remained intact.
When completed in the spring, the museum will transport people through time from events leading to the 9/11 attacks all the way to the current events of today. And even when its doors open, the museum will always remain a work in progress.
“The story of 9/11 started well beforehand, and it continues to define our world beyond that,” Daniels told Haskell.
Added Greenwald: “When you come to this museum, you will be reminded of what we’re capable of, not just in terms of the worst of our nature, but really the best.”
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