The construction of the 9/11 museum has been fraught with tension and in-fighting. On Wednesday, though, its first official day of operation, the atmosphere was quiet and muted, respectful and restrained. Formally called the September 11 National Memorial and Museum, it is filled with artifacts both large (70-foot-tall architectural remains of the Twin Towers) and small (heels worn by an office worker who escaped), as well as invisible (piped-in audio testimony that humanizes the victims, survivors, and their experiences). All together, it presents an in-depth account of a day that no one could ever forget, whether they lived through it or not, whether they were in New York City at the time or not. It is, as others have said, "emotionally overwhelming" and "an antidote to denial."
These photos, taken during a visit that, thank goodness, lasted more than three hours, reveal what's inside without trying to pass judgement. Because nothing will, or should, replace a visit to the museum itself. The varied emotions ignited by the displays and by silent proximity to fellow visitors, who are all processing the gripping visuals and information in their own ways, cannot be captured on film.