Visiting the World Trade Center Memorial in NYC

World Trade Center Memorial

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Where were you on 9/11/2001?

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing as I’m sure most people my age do. There are few events in my lifetime I remember such vivid details about. I was hurrying to get to my meeting on time and putting on a final swipe of mascara when my attention was grabbed by the breaking news on the television.

Visiting the World Trade Center Memorial in New York City was a profound experience for me. I think the only other time I’ve ever felt such raw emotion was when my husband and I visited the Mauthausen Concentration Camp Memorial in Austria.


That’s the best word to describe it.

My husband and I actually visited the 9/11 site in 2002, not even a year after it happened. Then, it was all debris and construction and a lot of homemade memorials. This visit was part of a girls weekend in the city and I will tell you that it will send you into emotional overload. I’m a crier on a normal day, so this was hard for me…but at the same time it was one of the highlights of my visit to NYC.

At any rate, you should absolutely consider a visit to the World Trade Center Memorial and 9/11 Museum as part of any New York City itinerary.

The World Trade Center Memorial

World Trade Center Memorial

You can visit the September 11 Memorial reflecting pools outside the Museum for free. The pools sit exactly where the twin towers stood and are a tribute to the lives lost, not only in New York City, but at the Pentagon, in the flight that went down in Pennsylvania, and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

The names of those who perished are engraved in the bronze panels surrounding the pools. People are encouraged to touch the names and remember. I saw many people running their fingers along those etchings reflecting on the horrific losses. Some people stood there for what seemed like forever…others were looking for specific names. Some people, like me, just seemed kind of in awe of it all.


The 9/11 Museum

Visiting the World Trade Center Memorial in NYC.

The best resource for your visit is the 9/11 Museum website for details of pricing, hours, etc. It became very clear, very early on during my visit that the 9/11 Museum was very well thought out. There was clearly a tremendous amount of effort put into paying respect to the lives lost yet telling the story at the same time.

The Museum is divided into three sections: the historical exhibition covering the timeline of events, the memorial section paying tribute to the lives lost, and the Foundation Hall which contains some of the physical pieces of the twin towers.

My visit to the World Trade Center Memorial clearly will be something I never forget. Parents should use discretion (especially with children under ten). I will likely wait a few more years before taking my kids, but I will definitely take them!

Visiting the World Trade Center Memorial in NYC.
Visiting the World Trade Center Memorial in NYC.

So…should you visit the 9/11 Museum and Memorial?

I think that’s a personal decision. I know not everyone wants to visit and some feel as though they can’t handle it. But in my opinion, it’s an incredible tribute that I think shouldn’t be missed!

What I remember most:

  • The timeline is so detailed. I learned things about the day before, day of, and days after that I never knew.
  • This is an event that played out live on television. The playback of Matt Lauer on the Today show is chilling.
  • The personal messages left by the families of those lost…some recorded and some written are absolutely heart wrenching.
  • The photographs and stories of the witnesses, survivors, and first responders. Tears…lots of tears.

Some tips for your visit:

  • Buy tickets online ahead of time!
  • Go early to avoid the crowds.
  • Be prepared for the emotional overload  (they have tissues strategically placed throughout the museum for you).
  • Give yourself plenty of time. I think we spent about 2 and 1/2 hours, but truthfully I felt like I just couldn’t do more.
  • Guided tours are available if you choose.

Have you been? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments. If you’re interested in what else I got into while in NYC you can read more HERE. Let me know what y’all think!

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Visiting the World Trade Center Memorial in NYC.

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  1. I definitely remember where I was that day and what I was doing. I was in college and that was the day I decided to change majors and was needing signatures and schedule changes and then suddenly none of that mattered when I saw the news of the day.

    I think I would like to see the memorial in person at some point.

  2. I remember where I was and what I was doing on 9/11. We had just recently moved to Virginia from New York City. I was at school. We were supposed to go to a field trip near D.C. I remember we turned back around to go inside the school and then the teachers told us what happened. I don’t think anyone will ever forget what they were doing, where they were at, and their initial feelings about what was happening on that day.

  3. I’ve been back a few times and each and every time it’s an emotional experience. I was in high school when all of this happened and I remember the exact tile I was standing on in our kitchen when I saw it on the news. My heart still aches every day for the people affected by the events.

  4. I’ve been back a few times and each and every time it’s an emotional experience. I was in high school when all of this happened and I remember the exact tile I was standing on in our kitchen when I saw it on the news. My heart still aches every day for the people affected by the events.

  5. Yes, I remember so much about not only that morning but the week prior to and following it. Etched. In.

    I was in NYC in 2003 and also went to the site. As you say, it was a giant hole in the ground, fenced off with makeshift memorial stuff surrounding it. The plans were being made for the memorial that it is today. I was in tears standing there and in awe of the loss of people. I’ve not been back to NYC since but I would love to and if I do, this will be on my list. Thanks for the tips you’ve share, Julie.

    1. It’s definitely one of the only moments in my life where I actually felt real fear…like these attacks could keep happening everywhere. The museum and memorial are really well done…clearly so much thought put into trying to tell the story and show respect.

  6. I remember as well, in New Zealand watching the news as it took over the telly in disbelief. Can’t believe that was 16 years ago

  7. I was on my way to teach a class and heard the news in the car. I was paralyzed for about an hour unsure of do I go back home and stay at work. My son would celebrate his first birthday the next day. We were at the restaurant glued to the news channel the entire meal.

  8. My sister visited, but I was nursing some really blistered feet and missed it. I’m sure it would be a really overwhelming, emotional moment though.

    And like you, I remember exactly where I was on that day. I was 11 and in my history classroom, oddly enough.


    1. Awe! Well if you’re ever back in NYC you should check it out. It’s an emotional yet great experience.

  9. Wow, I’ve never seen some of these exhibits before but they are so powerful. The museum is on my list of places to go when I’m in the city but I haven’t had a chance to get up there yet. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  10. A day I’ll absolutely never forget <3 Thank you for sharing this. I visited the 9/11 Museum too and thought it was very well done, too, and most importantly–respectful of the families of those lives that day. Thank you for sharing <3

  11. Great post! I’m visiting New York in October so I’ve been doing a lot of research and this is must visit for me. I’m deciding between just visiting and taking the tour. Did you consider the tour at all?

    1. My understanding is the tour is about an hour. I think there’s an app tour too you can do on your own through your phone. I didn’t really consider the tour as I just wanted to go at my own pace.

  12. I am Canadian and I remember waking up and going downstairs and seeing it on TV. I told my dad “Why are you watching a movie so early in the day?” and he said “No, this is real life”
    Then the phone rang and it was my husband (boyfriend) and he said “Turn on the TV.
    We went to a nursery that day to pick out our venue for our wedding and as we drove out to the country it was all silence. No planes flew in Canada.
    Our hearts hurt for America that day and still does.