May 21 marks the fifth anniversary of the opening of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. The Museum was dedicated on May 15, 2014, as “a sacred place of healing and hope” by former President Barack Obama during a ceremony.
In the week that followed the dedication, the Museum was accessible 24 hours a day for the families of those killed in the 9/11 attacks, as well as the rescue and recovery workers, first responders, survivors and lower Manhattan residents and business owners.
Described by President Obama as a site standing “in the footprints of two mighty towers, graced by the rush of eternal waters,” the Museum has welcomed more than 15 million visitors since 2014.
Over the past five years, the 9/11 Memorial Museum has steadily expanded its exhibitions and program offerings. In September 2016, the Museum revealed its first special exhibition, “Rendering the Unthinkable: Artists Respond to 9/11,” comprised of artwork by 13 New York City–based artists. More recently, it launched “Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11” in summer 2018. The exhibition explored how sports helped unite the country, console a grieving nation and gave us a reason to cheer again following the 2001 attacks. Taking inspiration from the exhibition, ESPN aired the documentary special "Stories from the Comeback Season: How Sports Helped a Nation Heal." The film, screened in the Museum’s Foundation Hall, offers an in-depth look at iconic moments after the attacks across U.S. sporting leagues, through a series of interviews with athletes, coaches and members of the 9/11 community whose lives were touched by professional sports in the aftermath of the attacks.
Since its opening, the Museum has also built a robust offering of educational programs for students designed to facilitate critical thinking about a range of topics related to 9/11. Since 2014, educator-led workshops and tours have had more than 39,000 student participants from the tri-state area. A key component of the educational programs is the Anniversary in the Schools webinar, which connects students and teachers with Museum staff and guest speakers for first-person narratives that deepen knowledge of the attacks and the importance of commemoration. The webinar has reached around 346,000 participants since its launch.
The Museum’s public programs have grown at a similar pace to include a variety of daytime and evening talks on 9/11 related topics through a mixture of film screenings, moderated conversations and performances. The public programs rooster has included prominent guest speakers like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, former U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, former New York Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams and former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. The Museum has also expanded off-campus public programming, including an initiative with the New York Road Runners for a public program on the unifying power of sports after tragedy at the TCS New York Marathon Pavilion in 2018.
Over the years, key U.S. and foreign dignitaries have paid tribute at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, underscoring 9/11’s continuing impact nationally and globally. Shortly after its opening, Pope Francis selected the Museum as the backdrop for a historic Multireligious Meeting for Peace in September 2015. The Museum has likewise welcomed former President George W. Bush, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and United States Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. In March 2019, FBI Director Christopher Wray announced a mandated 9/11 Memorial & Museum visit as part of the agency’s training. The visit strives to highlight the Bureau’s focus on counterterrorism and ensure the memory of the 9/11 attacks do not become a “mere historical footnote for the people of the Bureau,” as Director Wray told the newest class of FBI agent and intelligence analyst trainees during a recent visit to the Museum.
By Yulia Shalomov, Executive Assistant, 9/11 Memorial & Museum