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Commemorate the Tragedy's 20th Anniversary at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum

Pay homage in New York City to the nearly 3,000 lives lost to terrorism

reflecting pool at the ground zero memorial in new york city

Alamy Stock Photo

En español | Walk just two minutes from New York's One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan and a powerful architectural memorial of the catastrophic events that took place here on Sept. 11, 2001 will quickly move you. The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum commemorates that terrible day when terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center, about 16 minutes apart, killing 129 people aboard the planes, nearly 2,200 office workers, and more than 400 first responders.

If you go

Location: 180 Greenwich St. in New York

Hours: The memorial is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., while the museum is currently open Thursday-Monday, also from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Sept. 10, the last public entry to the museum is at 3:30 p.m. On Sept. 11, the area is closed to the public. (See more on 9/11 events, below.)

Cost: Visiting the memorial is free. Museum admission is $26 for adults, $20 for adults 65 and up. Entry is free for family members of the victims and first responders.

COVID-19 update: Masks are required, and timed tickets must be purchased in advance. Beginning on Sept. 13, New Yorkers and visitors will need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter restaurants and other indoor public spaces. Keep up on the latest rules at NYCgo.com.

The memorial

The simplicity of the memorial, which opened on Sept. 11, 2011, prompts visitors to contemplate the voids left by the buildings’ destruction. The name of the winning design, by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker, was “Reflecting Absence.”

In the middle of a field of more than 400 swamp white oak trees, two one-acre reflecting pools cover the exact footprints where the Twin Towers stood. Thirty-foot waterfalls cascade down the black granite walls that frame the pools, with 52,000 gallons per minute running over their sides. The sound of the water, blocking out the city's noise, is meant to encourage quiet contemplation.

It's particularly moving to see the 2,983 names inscribed in bronze around the edges of the pools, one for each of those killed in the three terrorist-related crashes that day — at the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and in rural Pennsylvania — as well as the six who died when a bomb exploded in the North Tower's parking garage in 1993.

Near the South Pool you'll find the 9/11 Memorial Glade, featuring six monoliths created with metal salvaged from the collapsed World Trade Center. It honors all the first responders, workers and survivors who were exposed to the toxins from the blast.

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum in Manhattan, NYC

Emanuel Tanjala / Alamy Stock Photo

The museum

Enter the 110,000-square-foot below-ground museum through an above-ground pavilion. Inside, the sobering exhibit “In Memoriam” further drives home the magnitude of the tragedy. Outside, you can read the names of the 2,983 victims. This exhibit gives them faces: From floor to ceiling, four walls are lined with portraits of the victims, aged 2 to 85 and representing 90 nations.

AARP's Full 9/11 Anniversary Coverage

Read and view more stories of rescue, recovery, grieving and healing, as we mark two decades since the tragic attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Elsewhere in the museum, you'll see the Survivors’ Stairs, used as an escape route by hundreds on 9/11, and the original steel column bases that anchored the Twin Towers, looming like ghosts out of the wreckage. In all, the museum has more than 14,000 artifacts either salvaged from the attacks or donated by the families of the victims, first responders who survived, or relief workers who manned Ground Zero post-9/11.

See a red bandanna worn by Welles Remy Crowther, a 24-year-old equities trader-turned-hero in the South Tower. At age 16, he became a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Upper Nyack, New York, and he used that training on 9/11 to guide survivors to the only viable staircase for escaping. To protect himself from the smoke, he covered his nose and mouth with the bandanna. Sadly, he ultimately died in the attack.

Read some of the heartfelt messages scribbled by recovery workers on the yellow hard hat worn by Salvation Army volunteer Debora Jackson, a Brooklyn resident who felt a calling to help and manned relief tents around Ground Zero for several months after 9/11. “To one of the best women I've ever met,” wrote one grateful worker.

Another must-see exhibit: “In the Hunt for Bin Laden,” which runs through January, details the extraordinary steps the U.S. government took to find the man considered the mastermind behind the attacks.

Tribute in Light in Downtown New York City in remembrance of the 9/11 attack

Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

20th Anniversary activities

To observe the milestone anniversary, family members of the victims will gather on the memorial plaza at 8:30 a.m. to begin the annual ritual of reading aloud the names of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks, as well as in the 1993 bombing. As the names are read, moments of silence will be observed six times, corresponding to the times when the two towers were struck, when they fell, when the attack on the Pentagon occurred, and when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania. Houses of worship will be encouraged to toll their bells at 8:46 a.m., when the first plane struck.

Although the ceremony is restricted to families of the victims, everyone in the vicinity will be able to view the annual “Tribute in Light.” In Lower Manhattan, near the site of the memorial, two beams of light representing the Twin Towers will soar up to four miles into the sky and be visible from as far away as 60 miles. Buildings throughout the city will light up their facades and rooftops in sky blue as well.

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