People have said it's your duty as an American to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City. I walked away after a visit over the weekend in complete agreement. This is something every American needs to see to fully appreciate what happened.

KPEL / Rob Kirkpatrick

The sprawling complex in lower Manhattan is simply stunning. A single word to convey the gravity, sadness and fear of that day simply doesn't exist. Around every corner is a memory, a tribute, an artifact that helps to paint the picture of the days (and following weeks) of terror. The exhibits are massive and very moving, but you never forget you are at the site of a terrible event in our nation's history. No photographs were allowed inside, so my apologies for that.

Outside, we took a tour of the massive memorial with a historian who studies the timeline of events constantly. It takes someone who can process such enormity and touch these artifacts to sort out what, to many, is unthinkable.

Over the course of the tour, there were some things I never knew:

1. The architect behind the memorial ponds was young and relatively unknown when his design was selected. Michael Arad won a blind competition with a design he first envisioned the night of the September 11th attacks.

2. The square ponds sit on the original footprint of the World Trade Center twin towers and are meant to represent a void. You can see the water cascading, but you can't see it hit bottom. Our tour guide said it symbolized the grieving process.

KPEL / Rob Kirkpatrick

3. Survivors are not organized alphabetically on the memorial. Names are grouped based on relationships. Surviving family members submitted a list of people the victims worked with or knew personally. This creates communities.

4. Birthdays are celebrated at the Memorial. White roses are placed in the etched names on the granite memorial to mark the day. On Friday, it was Flight attendant Madeline Amy Sweeney's birthday. She was on American Airlines flight 11.

5. There are dozens of trees on the plaza where the memorial and museum entrance sit. Locals didn't like the harsh stone and metal look, so a landscape designer came in and added trees later. Every tree came from a different nursery to resemble people of "all walks of life" were victims of 9/11.

KPEL / Rob Kirkpatrick

 

Now for the 'take my breath away' moment of the tour. There is a section of the memorial were victims of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Robert Kirkpatrick was one of the victims. As far as I know, there is no relation to me.

KPEL / Rob Kirkpatrick

A post on the 9/11 Memorial website gives his story.

Robert Kirkpatrick lived in Suffern, N.Y., with his wife, Evelyn. Skilled in carpentry, plumbing and locksmithing, he worked for the Port Authority as a senior structural maintenance supervisor. Robert spoke of retiring in November 1993. On Feb. 26 of that year, Robert was in the World Trade Center basement on his lunch break when a bomb exploded in the nearby parking garage. He was 61 years old.