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Visiting the 9/11 Memorial Museum

January 23, 2015 By: Peter Barrett

For those looking for one of my technical posts, I hope you don't mind a different story this time around. I visited the 9/11 Museum in New York over the weekend and had a very humbling experience that has inspired me to put something down on "paper". Personally, I am hoping that writing this blog post will help me cope with the renewed emotions that the visit created in me. 

For those that have not yet made a visit,  I believe you will find it to be one of those things, that after it is said and done, it was necessary to experience. Viewing the artifacts and listening to the taped cell phone messages from those trapped in WTC Towers 1 and 2, along with those giving their last wishes to their families from aboard Flight 93 sent chills down my spine and brought tears to my eyes. I advise that before you visit, plan for a full day and a gamut of emotions. It almost feels like you acquire a new family as you travel from exhibit to exhibit and share emotions via eye contact with other visitors.

I was very much impressed by the museum/memorial layout and presentation. There is respect for all the families of the loved ones lost that day, combined with the historical relevance of the events and also, amazing engineering feats. The museum provides impressive engineering data from the original tower construction and a time-lapse movie of the building of the museum grounds. Most impressive is the massive size of the exposed original steel column foundations of the twin towers, and the exposed slurry wall along with its massive anchors. Returning to the daylight and viewing the inspiring Freedom tower provided a warm feeling that we as a nation can overcome all obstacles and continue to build and produce engineering marvels.

The tour brought back vivid memories of that day, along with the total shock experienced in the aftermath of the attacks.  Three years post 9/11, CAE Associates was honored to have been selected to provide part of the engineering forensic investigation of the towers collapse. This was also a very humbling experience at the time.  Touring the museum brought all the emotions back to me like it was yesterday.

Most observers viewed the mangled steel columns from the plane impact in horror, as I did. But, my experience at the museum also brought back the emotional difficultly I faced during the nearly 24/7 process of running the detailed analytical models we developed and painstakingly processed as part of the forensic investigation. We spent many long nights evaluating the thermal-structural response through multiple static and dynamic restart analyses necessary to replicate the buckling response of each critical member of the towers.

I would recommend one logging onto the Memorial's website prior to visiting.  Any thoughts from others who have also paid tribute would be of interest to me in sharing our renewed respect for all those impacted by September 11, 2001.