Nine years ago tomorrow, a group of terrorists attacked the United States. Next year, a memorial will rise in New York. Many seem to be at a loss to properly mark that terrible day, and some would prefer to forget 9/11 and its aftermath altogether. But I am a realist. It happened; it affected me in a way that little else has; and it will remain with me forever. I will tell my children about it – indeed, we have already visited “ground zero” in Manhattan together.
Last year, I met the staff of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum as they began deploying Nirvanix cloud storage to support their preservation and presentation of audio, video, and photographs. I was struck by the professionalism and respect of this group, all struggling to build a fitting memorial. An iPhone app to explore 9/11 might seem odd, but as you will see it makes perfect sense.
Walk around lower manhattan and you will be struck by the sheer number of tourists who flock to pay their respects at the “ground zero” site. Although “popular” isn’t the proper word to describe it, the World Trade Center site has become a magnet for visitors from the United States and beyond. In a way, visiting the site and the temporary memorial museum is just about the only thing people can do at this point.
Although drawn to the site, most have little idea what to do once they are there. They marvel at the size of the “hole” in the skyline, they wander around the chain-link fences, but they don’t really know how to appreciate what they are seeing.
This is the purpose of the Explore 9/11 app: It is a guidebook to the site, placing it in context and bringing images, sound, and video from that day. In a way, it is a mobile museum and memorial, helping these visitors to make sense of where they are and what they are seeing.
The app has three components. The first is a walking tour of the World Trade Center site, complete with a map, directions, and narration at stops along the way. Rather than gawking at the construction, visitors will be able to follow the events of September 11 as they walk around the site. The selected audio and photos are both poignant and informative, beginning with the initial impact and continuing through the rescue, recovery, and remembrance.
Visitors to other parts of New York can also use the app, exploring photos taken from around the city. Finally, the Timeline function allows one to view photos from before, during, and after the attacks. It was very touching to me, a Connecticut native with my own memories of the towers, to see the old site as I remembered it.
The app is very New York-centric, as are most 9/11 remembrances, but there are images from the Pentagon and Pennsylvania as well. Although under-represented both here and in the final Manhattan memorial site, the events outside New York are not forgotten.
I was also pleased to see the beautiful imagery of the memorial. After such a long delay, it is gratifying to know that it will be completed in time for the tenth anniversary. I look forward to visiting the site again, paying my respects to the victims, and thanking those who worked so hard to recover and remember.
The Explore 9/11 app is free (iTunes link), and was created by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. I urge you to donate to that organization to help in construction.
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