Journalist recalls visit at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York

MANILA — Anyone who visits the now renowned 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York would leave with an indelible memory of what happened on that tragic day of Sept. 11, 2001 that caught red-handed the world’s most powerful country in an unconventional attack carried out by al-Qadea terrorists that killed 2,996 people, including 21 Filipinos, and the wounding of over 6,000 others.

This writer had the privilege to visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum on Oct. 20, 2015 following a three-day media workshop of journalists from 41 countries held in the Big Apple.

The conference was sponsored by The Media Project (TMP), a non-profit organization based in New York that challenges and equips mainstream journalists to cover religion as an essential part of public life with special attention to religious equality and press freedom around the world. This writer was the lone Philippine delegate to that prestigious conference.

The Museum is located where the huge twin towers were erected before they were blasted to the ground by two jetliners hijacked by al-Qaeda terror group of Osama bin Laden.

The bizarre attack sent shock waves around the world, prompting countries to be alert on terrorists’ attacks to date.

Twenty-one Filipinos were among those close to 3,000 who were killed in the barbarous attacks.

On that fateful day tagged as 9/11, Islamic terrorists succeeded in destroying the famous World Trade Center in New York. They also attacked the Pentagon in Washington, and in Pennsylvania.

It was the world’s deadliest terrorist attack in world history and most devastating on US soil since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 that triggered World War II in the Pacific.

Most of those who perished were civilians except for 71 law enforcement officers and 343 firefighters who died in the World Trade Center and on the ground in New York City, one law enforcement officer who died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 55 military personnel who died at the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, and the 19 terrorists who died on board the four aircraft.

Overall, 2,605 U.S. citizens, including 2,135 civilians, died in the attacks, while an additional 372 non-U.S. citizens (excluding the 19 perpetrators) also perished, which represented about 12 percent of the total. More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks, including the United Kingdom (67 deaths), the Dominican Republic (47 deaths), and India (41 deaths).

During a tour of the underground Museum, my attention was caught by a document for visitors to read about the terrorism in the Philippines, specifically the so-called “Bojinka Plot” uncovered by Philippine intelligence operatives in January 1995 before it could be carried out by al-Qaeda terror group.

According to the captured document, the terrorists planned to blow up 12 international airlines flying the Pacific route during the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1995.

But the plot was nipped in the bud by highly trained military and police intelligence operatives deployed by then President Fidel V. Ramos to ensure the safety of the Pope during his visit in the Philippines to attend the World Youth Day celebration in Manila in 1995.

Visitors enter the seven-storey underground Memorial Museum through a pavilion where two steel “tridents” — remnants of the North Tower’s façade — stand in the building’s atrium.

The main exhibition area is located seven stories below the 9/11 Memorial at the bedrock foundations of the World Trade Center.

Artifacts from the World Trade Center are properly displayed, including fire trucks used by firemen to put out the blazing inferno following the deadly attack.

One can find in the Museum collective stories relating the experiences of survivors, responders, area residents and eyewitnesses.

T-shirts and other items relating to 9/11 are sold as souvenirs for visitors.

There are about 10,000 visitors who visit the Museum daily, making it a must for New York visitors like yours truly.

The Memorial was designed by two architects, Michael Arad and Peter Walker. Their design was selected from among 5,201 entries from 63 countries.

Two huge reflecting pools surround the Memorial where the twin towers used to stand.

The pools feature 30-foot waterfalls – the largest man-made waterfalls in North America with the water cascading into reflecting pools.

The names of people who were killed in the 9/11 attacks in New York, at the Pentagon, and on Flight 93, as well as in the 1993 bombing at the WTC, are etched in bronze around the edges of the pools.

Visitors have a heyday clicking their mobile phone cameras to take souvenirs of the now flattened twin towers.

Visiting the Museum and reflecting on what happened on that fateful day of mankind made me murmur some prayers for the repose of those innocent people who were killed and reminded me of the importance of prayer and repentance for the world to be at peace with God, the center of our lives. Ben Cal/PNA/