NEW YORK CITY – As the Vinton-Shellsburg Music Department experienced the music and entertaining scene at the Big Apple last week, they also visited some moving historical sites.
Perhaps the most moving was the Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum. Those who watched in horror at what happened that day shed a tear as the videos and the exhibits brought faded memories back into high definition color. For those only infants or not yet born at the time, it gave a deeper understanding.
Brock Ortner was just eight months old when his mother, Laurie, expressed sorrow at bringing him into a world like this.
“While I was too young to remember the day, the museum and memorial was a somber, a dreary place,” said Brock.
“But yet it was memorable due to how many people visit every day to pay respects to those that were lost. The memorial united people of various backgrounds in ways that not many other things can.”
Casey Funk found himself deeply moved, speechless.
“I was awestruck by everything in front of me,” said Funk. “And even though I was only about five months old when it happened, I felt a connection to the place and the event like I had witnessed it. The memorial was both devastating and amazing at the same time. “
Laurie Ortner does remember that day 19 years ago. She had watched as the second plane plowed into the World Trade Center as she held Brock in her arms. Ortner remembers the noise, terror and the chaos of that day.
A week ago, Ortner heard only the gentle sound of the fountain constructed around the base of one of the towers, inscribed with the names of those who died that day.
“When I arrived and walked up I heard the sound of the water fountain, seeing that huge fountain and all the names of men and women all around the edges,” said Ortner. With those names were local fire departments.”
“This is where everything starts to come back to 9/11/01. As I look past the fountain and look at the Freedom Tower. I visualize, for a few seconds, that tower being hit with a jet, the explosion and fire.”
Ortner next sees in her memories people running for safety or jumping from the towers to avoid a more horrible death.
“Then like that the collapsing of the towers.” said Ortner. “That was just a feeling to me, but to think some of these people standing next to me actually witnessed and went through it that day.”
Ortner had not even made it inside the museum and the images flooded her brain. Once inside, she reads the various display boards.
“In the background, I’m listening to recordings that are playing. Those were actual recordings of victims that left messages for their loved ones. Ortner says her emotions were high but she managed to keep it together.
There’s an exhibit of the remnants of box columns, the cement staircase where thousands traveled to safety.
Then came the revolving doors after which no photography was allowed.
“This is the point where everything became so real to me,” said Ortner. “The video playing of Katie Couric and Matt Lauer reporting of the North Tower being hit by a plane AA Flight 11. This here is where all of my emotions started and continued.
“I can’t even describe all of the artifacts I saw or heard in this part of the museum. I remember seeing the edges of paperwork burnt of employees who worked in the building. ... I saw a melted phone directory, the one that you spin and is on alphabetical cards.
“I witnessed part of an airplane window, a fire truck, a fireman’s bunker gear, a little girl’s pink sweatshirt and a little boy’s white pajamas with black soot from the fires. They had fire trucks on them.
There was an area of videos playing of people jumping from the towers, three pairs of shoes of people that made it out of the towers. A black pair that had a 2.5-3 inch heel and this women made it out of the tower and walked home in those shoes. A very light tan pair with a stain of blood going down the left heel of her left shoe. This woman made it out also but didn’t realize she had a gash in her leg until she made it out. The third pair was of a gentleman.”
On a schedule and running out of time, Ortner visited the gift shop but felt guilty about doing so.
“I feel like I totally disrespected the rest of the no camera allowed part of the museum,” said Ortner. If only I had 1-2 hours more, I would have given them all my respect.
“I remember coming to the area of images and videos of the highjackers and the leader Osama bin Laden. This, just like 18 years ago, made me angry, frustrated and thinking what type of world are we living in. Seeing the video of them going through security, grabbing their baggage and walking off to those planes. where families going on a vacation, business men and women going on a business trips, pilots and airline stewards just doing their jobs. They didn’t know that within minutes, the planes they were all on would be hijacked and their lives and thousands of other innocent people’s lives would be taken that day. At this point you can see why I had anger emotions. I was ready to leave this part of the museum and get to the gift store.”
As we leave the museum, one last time I look at the water fountain and just listen to the sound of the water. As we walk, Brock points out to me the tree. It’s not just a tree, it’s a Callery Pear tree.
“The Survivor Tree.”
“This tree had been charred, but still had signs of life. Workers recovered the tree and transported it to a nursery and brought it back in 2011 to the memorial site. It’s very healthy and blooms every year.
“This was something special to see to end our day at the 9/11 Memorial.”
The day ended with a dinner cruise and being able to see the Statue of Liberty from the Hudson River. This was something amazing as the sunset over the skyline of New Jersey and New York was beautified.
“She, Lady Liberty, was showing us we will all be alright. She will always be protecting us and our country.
“God Bless the USA!”