ESSAY: Reliving instead of remembering Sept. 11

By Amy Westfeldt

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Sept. 8 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Jeremy Suede, now 28, lived in Santa Clara, Calif., at the time. His mother banged on his door to awake him and put him in front of the television. "I got to the tv just in time to see the second plane hit and then I watched in utter disbelief as they fell," he writes. "I remember feeling so helpless and it was the first time in my life something major had happened."

"The Day-9/11." That's the title of the memorial museum's day-of section, which won't open for a year. As it's described online, it will present the events as they happened, moment by moment.

"Using artifacts, images, video, first-person testimony, and real-time audio recordings from 9/11, the exhibition will provide insight into the human drama underway within the hijacked airplanes, the twin towers, and the Pentagon."

Families had long asked for an exhibit like this, so people would know and understand what happened. Charles Wolf, who lost his wife at the trade center, says it's going to be rough. But "we don't want this to be forgotten."

The Sept. 11 museum is by no means the first to recreate or simulate cataclysmic American experiences. It's something Americans love — under the right, and sometimes delicate, circumstances.

Civil War re-enactors gather on battlefields every year to feel what their predecessors felt in the midst of the fight, even though their weapons are filled with blanks.

Videogames like "Call of Duty" simulate what it's like to be an American soldier in the middle of modern warfare, be it Afghanistan or Iraq.

At the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, visitors can peer into the hotel room where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. In Dallas, in the former Texas School Book Repository Building, you can stand steps from where Lee Harvey Oswald did when he aimed at the president.

Back in the 1960s, the Cedar Point amusement park had a San Francisco Earthquake Ride modeled after the 1906 disaster, where fiery buildings would look like they were falling down as visitors hurtled in a car down a dark track. At Universal Studio theme parks, tourists survive the frighteningly real (tornadoes), the once real (dinosaurs) and the fancifully fictional (the villains of "Shrek").

At Orlando, Fla., visitors can go to "Titanic: The Experience." They board the ill-fated ocean liner, tour staterooms, eat dinner, and touch a frosty stand-in for an iceberg. They are assigned passengers' names and find out at the end if they're among the 700 or so who survived or the 1,500 who drowned on that night in 1912.

How many years away are we from an interactive experience, or an "attraction," in which people go into a reconstructed World Trade Center and try to get out. Fifty years? Twenty? Ten?

It could be called "Escape from the World Trade Center." And everyone who goes could finally know what Sept. 11 really felt like.

EDITOR'S NOTE — Amy Westfeldt has covered post-Sept. 11 issues from New York since 2003 and is the 9/11 anniversary editor for the AP.


Tomorrow: Blue skies and the state of American optimism a decade after 9/11.


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