The brother of a woman killed at the World Trade Center visits the 9/11 museum.
For the rest of America, 9/11 is a vast symbol. But for Steve Kandell and his family, it was a personal tragedy.
Kandell’s sister wasn’t a hero. She was just somebody who got murdered because she went to the office early.
I think now of every war memorial I ever yawned through on a class trip, how someone else’s past horror was my vacant diversion and maybe I learned something but I didn’t feel anything. Everyone should have a museum dedicated to the worst day of their life and be forced to attend it with a bunch of tourists from Denmark. Annotated divorce papers blown up and mounted, interactive exhibits detailing how your mom’s last round of chemo didn’t take, souvenir T-shirts emblazoned with your best friend’s last words before the car crash. And you should have to see for yourself how little your pain matters to a family of five who need to get some food before the kids melt down. Or maybe worse, watch it be co-opted by people who want, for whatever reason, to feel that connection so acutely.
There are two recording booths for people to tell their own stories of the day, or remembrances of loved ones who were lost. A man exits one of the confessionals, sees me, shakes his head, and says, “Amazing idea.” I enter, sit down, and stare at the screen ahead and say Shari’s name and how I was 3,000 miles away that morning and didn’t even know she was working there until I got the call at 6 in the morning and that I wish I had seen her more in those last years and remembered more about her and had something better prepared to say and that I wished my kids would have known her and that she’d think it’s pretty fucking weird that I’m talking about her to an invisible camera in the bowels of a museum dedicated to the fact that she was killed by an airplane while sitting at her desk and at some point the timer is up.
I never knew anybody who was killed 9/11. I visited the World Trade Center several times on business. And yet the memory of 9/11 is raw and personal to me. I haven’t watched any documentaries of the day. I never visited Ground Zero. I don’t expect I’ll have a problem going to the new building there if I ever have a reason to. But I don’t expect to ever visit the museum. Not ever.