My 9/11: The Concierge Hugged Us

September 08, 2011 at 9:00 am

On Oct. 10, 2001, my husband and I drove from Washington, D.C., to celebrate our long-planned 25th wedding anniversary in Manhattan.  I’ll never forget seeing the city skyline without the Twin Towers.  Though my mind knew what happened, my heart could not accept it.  As we emerged from the tunnel, firefighters greeted us, holding boots to collect for the widows and children.  The streets were mostly vacant; the city in a state of stillness I had never known.

National September 11 Museum Director Alice Greenwald during a tour of the museum's construction site. Although she didn't know ten years ago that she'd be helping to create the museum, the memory of her Oct. 2001 visit to Manhattan has stuck with her. Photo by Amy Dreher.

At our hotel, the concierge hugged us, happy that someone had come.  We walked the few blocks to our chosen restaurant, an elegant spot usually filled with diners speaking in hushed voices, acknowledging only their companions.  Something had changed.  The place was a-buzz:  bus boys chatting with diners, people introducing themselves to strangers seated next to them.  All decorum was gone, but it wasn’t chaos.  It was an affirmation of connection to one another, a leveling of distinctions that usually set us apart.

I certainly had no idea then that I would be directing the effort to create the National September 11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center site.  But, the memory of that night has stayed with me.  And, this museum, which will open in September 2012, one year after the 9/11 Memorial, will, I hope, remind us not only of the unimaginable losses we suffered on 9/11, but of the generosity of spirit and the extraordinary resilience with which we met the challenges of 9/12.


Alice M. Greenwald is the executive vice president for programs and director of the Memorial Museum at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.


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