The helmet and jacket of firefighter Jonathan Ielpi, who died in the 9/11 attacks
When it comes to the enduring images of 9/11, the horror-struck faces of those watching the tragedy unfold in front of them comes a close second to footage showing the attacks on the World Trade Center\'s twin towers.
That reaction - the slack jaw, the unblinking and uncomprehending stare and the hand rising subconsciously towards the face - really translated what happened onto a human scale.
That same human reaction is still happening dozens of times a day in lower Manhattan - except this time it occurs at two separate exhibitions that endlessly loop footage of the aftermath and impact of the attack.One of them, Tribute WTC Visitor Center, is a non-profit museum set up by families of those who were in the twin towers on the day of the attacks. The other, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, is an exhibition previewing the memorial that will open on the site of the twin towers tomorrow to mark the 10th anniversary.
Neither one features footage of either of the passenger jets hitting the twin towers but both are compelling and deeply affecting, undiminished even after all these years and all the attempts to rationalise what occurred.The display at Tribute WTC, located directly across the road from the World Trade Center site, is sufficiently moving on its own, but they also organise walking tours, conducted by those who escaped or family members of those who did not.
On the day I was there, the guides included the mother of a 23-year-old man who had died in the twin towers and many whose work colleagues had died.
With the building site being off limits, there isn\'t much to see and so the commentary reflects upon what used to be there and what is in the process of being built. But that doesn\'t stop the tours from becoming emotional experiences, both for those leading the tour and those taking it.
There are often tears on both sides - a common reaction, based on reports of the tours. But that\'s the idea: to take an endlessly replayed and analysed world event and bring it down to the human scale of loss.Inside the Tribute WTC museum, the display is made up of a series of themes - about the vibrant community centred around the twin towers before the attack; the events on 9/11; the stories of the rescue workers who rushed to the site; photographs and memorabilia commemorating the lives of those who died; and, finally, stories of how people turned their grief into action to improve international understanding rather than focusing on revenge. Scattered discreetly around are boxes of tissues, obviously well used.
As someone who once lived in Manhattan, had a flatmate working at the World Trade Center and who had not returned since the twin towers came down, I wasn\'t sure what to expect of the exhibition. I had steeled myself for a flag-waving and uber-nationalist place screaming \"USA!\" But it wasn\'t.Instead, it was the same theme again and again: a human story amid a colossal tragedy. Remember those tragic fliers featuring photos and details of the missing, posted in their thousands, around the site of the World Trade Center? Replicas of them (with phone numbers obscured) cover the entire wall in the exhibition.
It starts with just one picture - featuring a description and photo of Cantor Fitzgerald worker Andrew Stern, snapped smiling in a tuxedo. The wall is painted a blemishless blue, the colour of the sky on that early weekday morning of September 11, 2001. As you walk along the wall, dozens of more fliers appear until the wall is absolutely obliterated.
Tribute WTC, like the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, deals not just with the twin towers but also feature the original World Trade Center attack in 1993, the attack on the Pentagon and of Flight 93, the United Airways jet that crashed in Pennsylvania during an attempt by passengers to regain control of the aircraft. But the proximity to the World Trade Center site means that the collapse of the twin towers dominates.