Reflections: Visiting the 911 Memorial

2012-09-11

National 911 Memorial 

Guest blogger AAPA President-elect Larry Herman, MPA, PA-C, DFAAPA, reflects on his first visit to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York.  

My wife and I had some out of town family come to visit us recently and we decided to go into Manhattan with them for the day. We all started at the Intrepid museum and being a pilot, I spent a couple of hours describing the many aircraft displayed on and below the deck of this aircraft carrier. Next, we took a wonderful ride in a water taxi down the Hudson River, imagining where Sully had his miracle landing, and then docked at Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan and walked over to the 911 Memorial. Having worked in emergency medicine in New York City for the first decade of my career, 35 of my friends -- folks who were police officers, fire fighters, paramedics and EMTs -- died that day in the attack on the Twin Towers, so this was a very solemn visit for me.

If you haven't been to the 911 Memorial, I urge you to visit it. I found it very moving and had difficulty holding back the tears. There are two square waterfalls in the original footprint of the towers and this is surrounded by names carved into the metal at the top of the waterfalls. All of those who died that day, either in the airplane, on the ground, or responding to the disasters, are honored and I found many of my friends and gently touched them thinking of them again.

But what also struck me was the behavior of those visiting the Memorial, something I consider to be akin to a cemetery. People were sitting on the names, smiling and laughing, and taking pictures. It appeared that some were from outside the New York area and others outside the country and perhaps they did not understand the significance of what happened and the import of the Memorial. While security was around, this happened with such frequency it would be impossible to intercede. I came away saddened for the useless loss of life, and the lack of respect shown for the deceased. Regardless, this is something that everyone should see if given the opportunity.

But trust me when I suggest you bring tissues.
 

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