Though many will come to read about the context of the September 11th attacks, the structure of the National September 11th Memorial Museum itself illustrates some of the event's most harrowing details. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
Massive steel tridents are what you see first—the remains of columns that once helped support the facade of the World Trade Center's North Tower.
"They had to be brought here before the building was finished construction. So they were lowered in place by helicopters before we built the actual form of the building," says Craig Dykers, the architect of the museum pavilion.
The museum is on the Memorial Plaza where the twin towers stood and looks back at the day they fell, after the hijacked jetliners crashed into them and the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people perished.
All are remembered here, as well as the six victims of the 1993 Trade Center Bombing.
"Set within the remnant foundations of the World Trade Center. This is a museum containing artifacts, that is itself housed within an artifact," says Alice Greenwald, 9/11 Memorial Museum Director.
Helping to tell the story is the slurry wall built to hold back the Hudson when the towers went up. Nearby is the last column removed from the site as recovery neared completion. Also nearby are the so-called Survivors Stairs, where hundreds escaped from the burning buildings.
There are personal items donated by victims' families. There are also the damaged rescue vehicles which raced to the scene.
"The museum is a place where you can come to understand 9/11, through the lives of those who were killed, and the lives of those who rushed here to help," says former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is the 9/11 Memorial Museum Chairman.
After September 11th is chronicled, the museum turns to September 12th, the days and months after the attacks.
It has been a long, often contentious road getting the museum built, with debates over everything from the decision to relocate unidentified remains of victims to a space inside, to the $24 price of admission.
Museum officials are confident the end result speaks for itself.
Joe Daniels, president of the museum, sees the museum as having a larger role than just looking back.
"When people leave this museum, they are going to look at their neighbor differently, they are going to look at their sons and daughters differently, and that's really ultimately what this is about," he says.
After a week of previews for 9/11 families, rescue and recovery workers and survivors, the museum opens to the general public on May 21.