9/11 Memorial A look at Dark Tourism at Ground Zero

By: Megan Marples

This large hole is where one of the World Trade Center towers used to stand. The negative space represents all who were lost and that their absence will never be forgotten. It is also a place where people can gather to grieve and reflect. The museum costs money, but the two memorials outside are free to the public.
Two people stare at the names of people who were killed that day in the World Trade Center attacks. In the background there are small crowds of people, which shows the strong pull this tourist attraction has.
Throughout the memorial, white roses are placed on select names. The 9/11 memorial workers place those roses there on the victim's birthday. The white roses represent remembrance for those who were lost.
These two steel "tridents" as they are called were salvaged from the wreckage of the south tower. Museum visitors pass by them while on the escalator down to the main museum area. Their large size compared to the tourists cast an ominous shadow as they head underground to the exhibits. They block out the sun which creates a dark atmosphere fitting of a dark tourism site.
This is the beginning of the main museum exhibit. The wall depicts a map of the United States and the path the hijacked airplanes took that day. Other than the walls everything is dark, which causes the people walking through the exhibit to become silhouettes. They look similar to ghosts, which reminds the visitors of the lives lost.
A woman takes a picture as people crowd around an artifact at the museum. The object has the dedication day of the towers, April 4, 1973, engraved on it, along with a couple sentences about the two buildings. In this picture, there are people of all ages, which shows that the tourism appeal of this museum transcends age. The woman in the photograph is taking a picture on her phone, which demonstrates the increasing popularity of recording life experiences, no matter how dark.
Two people observe one of the areas dedicated to those lost in the bombings on February 26, 1993. Where they are standing is the approximate epicenter of the explosion. Less than a week before this picture was taken marked the 25th anniversary of the terrorist attack. Almost every artifact in the museum is damaged in some way. The flowers were one of the only displays that were alive which represents the rebirth after the attacks.
As visitors descend deeper underground, they see an entire wall filled with blue paper and a quote from Virgil. Each hand-painted blue square represents a victim of the attacks and is meant to symbolize the clear sky that morning before the attack. By focusing on the peace before the planes crashed into the buildings in New York and D.C., it demonstrates that peace can be found again after such a dark event. Spencer Finch is the artist.
Visitors take their final descent into the museum on an escalator next to what has become known as the "Survivors' Stairs." Many people were able to escape death by climbing down those steps, one of the few open pathways after the attack. The modern escalator next to the crumbling stairs shows the stark contrast between where the United States was after the attack and how far they have come since.
One of the exhibits at the museum includes a short film about the attacks. The long lines indicate the popularity of the movie and the exhibit as a whole. The high crowds throughout the museum indicate the popularity of dark tourism in New York City, especially at Ground Zero.
A man looks at the remnants of a Greenwich St. street sign. Greenwich street is one of the four roads that encompass the block where the twin towers were located. It is also the address for the museum, which links the past to the present.
This banner was made in Charleston, South Carolina, following the attacks. A local art teacher had her students draw pictures of what patriotism meant to them. A few were selected and painted on a large mural which was then sent to the mayor of New York City. The banner represents how such a dark event brought unity to the country and how a simple banner can become a symbol of hope.
In the main area, there is a firetruck that was destroyed from the terrorist attack in New York City. Many firefighters died trying to save people in the twin towers and this firetruck is used as a place of remembrance. In an exhibit, a quote was written from Bruno Dellinger, an evacuee from the 47th floor of the North Tower, about the firefighters he passed in the stairwell that day. He said, "They were going up to their death. And I was going down to live."
This picture shows a mother and a daughter praying at the museum. In the main area, visitors can see people of all religious backgrounds taking a moment to pray and remember those lost in the attacks. This is one of the more subtle parts of this dark tourism site that truly make it seem more memorial than attraction.
The museum attempts to make the horrifying event tangible by creating interactive exhibits for visitors. In this picture, two women are learning more about the attacks through the use of a large touch screen monitor. The thought-out visuals allow people of different languages to be able to learn about this global dark tourism site without needing to know English. Emotions such as grief and hope transcend culture, which is why a monitor with interactive visuals is a great way for people to learn about the museum.
While people were mostly silent as they experienced the museum, the main underground lobby area was full of people speaking and interacting with each other. In this picture, a woman is pointing at something on a memorial wall. The wall itself shows that not all dark tourism sites are gloomy and dark. The colorful graffiti looks similar to the west side of the Berlin Wall, whose wall remnants also represent another dark period in history turned tourist attraction.
At the museum, visitors can select where they are from and write a message for others to see. This interactive part of the museum allows visitors of all ages to express their emotions. While some people choose to write words, the majority of the messages are hearts and peace signs. This lets people from all walks of life to contribute a message, which further unites people at this global dark tourism destination.
At the conclusion of the exhibits, visitors take an escalator up to the main lobby. The blue and white lights are similar to what is commonly believed people see when they die, but they are also a sign of hope that the victims moved on to a better place. With any dark tourism attraction, there are always subtle signs of hope woven in.
Part of almost any tourism attraction is a gift shop. While the 9/11 museum shop did have merchandise commemorating the attacks, a large portion of the museum focused on the strength of love as a whole. One of the silver linings of horrible attacks such as these is that it brings unity to a community. People of all backgrounds become connected by this one shared experience. The gift shop was filled with souvenirs that shared this message, which is something positive that visitors can take home from this dark tourism site.
One of the other souvenirs visitors can buy at the exhibit are stuffed animal patrol dogs. This helps make the museum more tangible and approachable for younger children who may not be able to grasp the terrorist attack.
This was the famous flag that was raised as a symbol of hope after the attacks. The flag went missing for 15 years after that, but they were able to track it down. This shows how dedicated the museum was in searching for artifacts to create a comprehensive memorial and tourism experience.
These flags represent the 90 nationalities of the people who were killed in the 9/11 attacks. This represents the global impact the terrorist attacks had. The flags bring a sense of unity to the museum and helps create a bigger picture for an otherwise America-centric dark tourism site.
Jars of paper cranes are scattered on tables throughout the museum cafe. Even in an area of the museum that is devoid of exhibits, the museum still tries to share their story. Children originally made these cranes as a way to cope with the horrific events and used them as a symbol of hope. Kids at the cafe enjoyed looking at the paper creations, which helped make the attacks more understandable to them.
Both inside and outside the museum, there is a heavy police presence. Security has become a top priority of tourism sites, dark tourism aside. Many of the modern terrorist attacks occur in popular tourist destinations, such as the stabbing in London and the car massacre in Nice. This specific officer is part of the counterterrorism initiative, which was created after 9/11. This shows the strong hold terrorism has on tourism destinations and the country as a whole.
Almost five years after the 9/11 attacks, construction began on the One World Trade Center. This picture shows the reflection of the skyscraper in a window of the 9/11 museum, which helps depict the progress the United States has made. It also shows that while the two towers are gone, they will never be forgotten.

This project was completed under the direction of Dr. Dallen Timothy in his International Tourism course at Arizona State University in partnership with Barrett, the Honors College.

Created By
Megan Marples


Megan Marples

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