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Everything You Need to Know About the 9/11 Museum


By Laura Shunk
Museum Travel Expert, about.com
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After you've passed through security at the front of the 9/11 Museum, you'll descend into the belly of the earth, the mood growing decidedly more somber as you plunge. You'll pass architectural remnants of the twin towers and their surroundings, including the Survivors' Staircase, a Vesey Street staircase that served as an escape route for those fleeing the buildings.

When you reach the bottom of the ramp, you'll likely be directed by a museum staffer into the historical exhibition; if not, turn left when you get to the bottom floor and head back to a revolving door, which serves as the exhibition's entrance. If you're short on time, you'll want to skip the rest of the museum for this collection.

The historical exhibition details the importance of the World Trade Center and twin towers before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and it guides viewers through a detailed timeline of events, supplemented by relevant artifacts and personal oral histories.

[post_ads]It is these personal histories that make this museum most compelling: they offer a harrowing, humanized window into the event, from the moments before the first plane struck 1 WTC, through the continuing aftermath of the attacks. And they capture what 9/11 really meant to New York City and America. Look for voicemails left by worried friends, recordings of phone calls made by passengers on the hijacked planes, and personal accounts from firefighters in the towers. In the wake of this, you might find it difficult to examine every piece of debris on display -- the museum has an impressive collection of things, which range from bits of the airplanes that crashed into the buildings to pocketbook contents from a victim to fliers posted by families of the missing.

After you've finished this exhibition, you can check out the Memorial Exhibition, which contains photos of the more than 3,000 victims of that day, as well as their stories.

Be sure to save some time to take in the 9/11 Memorial, too. The twin reflecting pools sit over the sites of the former towers, and they feature the largest manmade waterfalls in North America. And take a gander at the Survivor Tree, a pear tree that survived the attacks and, after rehabilitation by the Department of Parks and Recreation, has since blossomed again. It remains a symbol of the events of that day.

Here's what else you need to know:
Tickets are timed, and can be purchased online up to three months in advance of your visit. Most days, you can pick up tickets at the museum and get in line, though you might wait an hour or so before you're let in.

On Tuesdays, entrance is free from 5 to 8 p.m., though you'll need to be in the door by 6. You can reserve a limited number of those tickets online two weeks in advance; the rest are distributed on a first come, first served basis starting at 4:30 p.m.
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9/11 family members and recovery and relief workers, and active and retired military always get in free. NYPD, FDNY, and PAPD members get discounted tickets.

You can take a guided tour of the exhibition, too, which gets you an hour-long guided discussion of the artifacts and the events of September 11, 2001. Or you could pick up an audio guide. Either option is available all day everyday the museum is open.

Finally, expect crowds -- both at the memorial and in the museum. You'll spend much of your time maneuvering around people to read displays, which is why the museum takes more time than average to see.

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Travel Magazine: Everything You Need to Know About the 9/11 Museum
Everything You Need to Know About the 9/11 Museum
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