NEW YORK - Survivors of the September 11 attack, along with rescuers, victims' relatives and dignitaries joined together Thursday for the dedication of the September 11 museum.
The museum was built to commemorate the 2001 terrorist attack, as well as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The museum opens to the public May 21.
By turns chilling and heartbreaking, the ground zero museum leads people on an unsettling journey through the terrorist attacks, with forays into their lead up and legacy.
There are scenes of horror, including videos of the skyscrapers collapsing and people falling from them. But there also are symbols of heroism, ranging from damaged fire trucks to the wristwatch of one of the airline passengers who confronted the hijackers.
"You won't walk out of this museum without a feeling that you understand humanity in a deeper way," museum President Joe Daniels.
The museum "will help ensure that our nation remembers the lessons of Sept. 11," said former president George W. Bush.
The museum and memorial plaza above, which opened in 2011, were built for $700 million in donations and tax dollars.
Visitors start in an airy pavilion where the rusted tops of two of the World Trade Center's trident-shaped columns shoot upward. From there, museumgoers descend stairs and ramps, passing through a dark corridor filled with the voices of people remembering the day and past the battered "survivors' staircase" that hundreds used to escape the burning towers.
At the base level — 70 feet below ground, amid remnants of the skyscrapers' foundations — there are such artifacts as a mangled piece of the antenna from atop the trade center and a fire truck with its cab shorn off.
Then, galleries plunge visitors into the chaos of Sept. 11: fragments of planes, a set of keys to the trade center, a teddy bear left at the impromptu memorials that arose after the attacks, the dust-covered shoes of those who fled the skyscrapers' collapse, emergency radio transmissions and office workers calling loved ones, even a recording of an astronaut solemnly describing the smoke plume from the International Space Station.
Sprinkled in are snippets about the 19 hijackers, including photos of them on an inconspicuous panel.