Ground Zero Museum
420 West 14th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY
Head slightly bowed, a firefighter gingerly holds a folded American flag. This is the first photo you see before entering the Ground Zero Museum located in Manhattan’s Meat Packing District in New York City.
Official Photographer at Ground Zero
Gary Marlon Suson
The Ground Zero Museum is in a small area. It is designed so that loved ones of 9/11 victims would have a safe, intimate place to come. However, it has been called the “Biggest Little Museum in New York” by the media.
Although it is small, this museum is powerful. It houses artifacts recovered from Ground Zero as well as images taken by Gary Marlon Suson, an Honorary FDNY Battalion Chief and the Official Photographer at Ground Zero for the Uniformed Firefighters Association.
Physical, Verbal, and Visual Displays
Visitors are allowed to hold some of the remaining glass from the windows of World Trade Center. Ninty-nine percent of the WTC glass had turned to powder. I wondered who had looked out of those pieces of glass as it passed from one hand to another.
An audio narration by Suson complements the photos. One of Suson’s photographs that is especially meaningful to visitor Carolyn Kettelhut is the image of a clock stopped at 10:02:14. Suson’s recorded narration explains how he felt about this scene; he was upset that so much life stopped at that exact moment.
For Capt. Oluwole Osibodu the photo of retired FDNY Firefighter John Tipping helping to carry the body of his son from the rubble touched him most. This and other photos show the presence of love in the physical expressions of grief and exhaustion of those who helped in the recovery effort.
For me, the photo that encapsulated what must have been one of the ongoing emotions of the rescuers is the picture of firefighter Oscar Garcia on his knees. His shovel sticking out of the ground before him, his hands resting on his thighs, his head slightly tilted back with closed eyes, he prays. Overwhelmed by the daunting task before him, I imagine he must be praying for all the victims as well as the strength to continue searching.
Indeed, it’s that inner strength that gives us true freedom. And it’s that freedom that helps us access that inner strength.
Another photo that documents the cyclic relationship between freedom and strength is one of an iron worker carving the Star of David and crosses out of a steel beam from the WTC. Among other virtues, this photo depicts American’s freedom to connect to God if, when, where, and how we see fit. Any other way of communion with the divine is coerced; therefore, it has less (if any) meaning, truth, or reality.