Part 2: Student Reflects on 9/11 Museum Ambassador Program

Annalee Tai, a 9/11 Museum ambassador, leads a tour at the Museum. Several visitors stand beside her as she points towards something out of view.
Annalee Tai, 9/11 Museum Ambassador leading museum tour. Photo by Amy Dreher.

A pair of ash-covered shoes with torn soles; a beat-up leather wallet; a charred golden ring. These images are seared in my mind. Ordinary objects like these have assumed extraordinary significance because they are a part of the 9/11 narrative.

As a high school ambassador at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, I have been immersed in stories of loss and mourning as well as heroism and resilience. I share these poignant stories with classmates when I lead tours of the museum. By giving them the same profoundly moving experience I have had, I hope to change their perception of 9/11 as just another historical event. I see the faces of my peers grow somber as empty statistics become tangible: the enormity of two 110-story buildings, the brevity of 102 minutes to encompass four terrorist attacks, the sorrow for 2,977 victims.

These raw, emotional experiences have been complemented by eye-opening learning. After attending classes at the museum on the Patriot Act and civil liberties, then Bernard Haykel’s lectures on Islamist radicalism, I am now left with many questions. Is it possible to fully understand the calamity of 9/11 without understanding energy politics or resource use? Can we comprehend the nature of our adversaries without truly understanding Islam and its many facets? How can we sustain the sanctity of our personal freedoms without inadvertently allowing for another tragedy?

My ambassadorship at the 9/11 Memorial Museum has been transformative because it has shaped my views on human nature and compassion, as well as piqued my interest about civil liberties, security, and foreign policy in the Middle East.

I want to study these issues in depth because I want to contribute to a solution; to find out what can be done about the large challenges in the Middle East and the geopolitical reasons that perpetuate them. 

By Annalee Tai, 9/11 Museum Ambassador 

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