June 23 – Auditorium

No, not a page title error, I am back in the auditorium today, but, boy, was this a busy day! I went upstairs to the Atrium Terrace and the Auditorium after the day’s pre-shift meeting.

Not a huge amount of visitors expected today, we were told. Well, someone should have gone up to the Atrium and see how the line extended through two queues and back almost to the cafe entrance. And I was the only one on the line with a counter. Luckily for me, a previous host, Damon, with whom I first became acquainted on my first day alone, was the host for the auditorium events of the day. Entertaining as always, he was so ably managing the lines of visitors, who were more than the auditorium could accommodate, with his wit and kindness. Got separated from your wife, kids, husband, group? Damon managed that so skillfully and everyone was happy with the result.

On this day, all the showings, that is, the two films described in my previous post, were filled to capacity, some due to visitors seeing the first film, and deciding to stay for the other. Usually we ask the viewers to vacate the auditorium and get on line for the next film.  Here, the host has discretionary authority and he was very kind to allow those wishing to stay to remain in their seats for the next film.

The day’s special event in the auditorium on Monday though Friday is a live talk given by staff of the Museum, survivors, first responders and others closely associated with September 11, 2001. Today, the talk was “Faces of Ground Zero”, presented by 911 Memorial and Museum staff. Oddly, most visitors preferred to wait for the film, rather than attend the live presentation and turned back when I spoke about the live event. The Auditorium was just a bit over half full for this event, but seeing the grave faces on many of those exiting from the talk, I guess I underestimated the effect the talk might have had on those that demurred, although I felt the same way myself for so many years. Researching online, I found a book with the same title as the talk.

One of my functions on the Auditorium post is also to direct visitors to where they need to go. Under this umbrella, I had my first very, very emotional moment, when a group of four asked me to take them to the Family Room. Unexpectedly, my eyes started to tear up, realizing that these people were the survivors of someone lost on the day. I had no words, although there was so much I wish I could have said, but, instead, I asked them to please have a seat while I fetched a Security person on duty, Maria, to guide them to the room. Unbeknownst to me, that was exactly what I had to do, because Security are the only ones who may confirm i.d., and then open the locked door to the reflection room.

It took a little while to regain my composure and when Maria returned, she described her own feelings and often very difficult resolve to be strong when the family room was used.

Right before I was scheduled to leave my shift, a gentleman from California,Scott, a schoolteacher at the time, approached me in the line and asked “where were you” on the day. His eyes were very red and he disclosed that this was his third visit to the Memorial and Museum, and that he still got very emotional. My mind told me to NOT get back to the state I just got out of a few minutes back with the family room visitors and my conversation with Maria, so I reversed the question. He related that he was preparing for a fun day for his 3rd or 4th grade class, very early California time, when he witnessed the events as televised on the Today show. He cried when he heard Matt Lauer describing what was occurring, and wondered how, and if, he could adequately explain to his class, what had happened, why it happened and what the state of America was now. He mentioned how he heard that all the US airspace was closed and that all planes either  flying over or scheduled to land in the US were diverted. Then he collected himself and told me that when he was watching the TONYs last week,  he learned that there was a musical on Broadway that spoke to this aircraft diversion. Now, if anyone reading this blog knows me, they know that “Come From Away” is, without a doubt, my favorite Broadway show in years, so I certainly was relieved at the turn in mood for both of us.  During our conversation about Come From Away, his wife came by with their daughter, Abigail, and she also expressed a desire to see the Broadway production, but that tickets were hard to get. I just happened to have a lapel pin from Come From Away and pinned it on the little girl’s dress to remind them to catch the show. I hope to get a few of them when I see the next time with my daughter. I also did mention the book I so enjoyed about the Gander, Newfoundland “layover” and urge anyone reading this who is interested in a real life tale about how the people in a very small town in Newfoundland, Canada, welcomed unexpected hordes of stranded travelers, to read the book, The Day the World Came to Town,  if you can’t make the Broadway production, although I’m sure there will be a national tour.

I would like to acknowledge the staff member. Kai, who was on duty with me, for the very enjoyable and able company she was today.

I seem to be forgetting something about his day, but when it comes to me, I’ll amend this post.

I wonder where I’ll be stationed next Friday!

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