When you learn about major events in U.S. History, especially events such as Pearl Harbor that occurred quite some time before your own birth, it’s with a certain amount of disconnect that you absorb all of the information delivered. There’s an understanding of the severity of the event, the lasting effects such an event has, and a general acceptance of how it changed U.S. culture for years to come. Text books can’t really convey, however, the true effect a major event has on the psyche of an individual who has been through that specific historical event. .

September 11, 2001 changed that for many of us. I was in high school when the planes hit, safely observing from my northeastern Ohio classroom. I don’t know anyone who died that day, or anyone who was directly affected. I can only express the realization I came to that day. My grandkids would be reading about September 11th in a text book, and would only be able to study the event, never really fully grasping the profound impact it had on our society.

The National September 11 Memorial and Museum released an iPhone app this year that offers all of us a chance to remember the event, and visualize some moments through the eyes of witnesses directly affected by this event. Three different options are available that provide a look into this tragic day: Tour, Explore, and Timeline.

For those of you taking a trip to New York or currently living there, the tour feature of this app provides you with a step by step walking tour, complete with directions and movies at each location to help bring you into the moments when the planes hit the buildings. First responders, rescue workers, and those in or around the area on that day share their stories as you walk through seven specific areas around Ground Zero. The movies in the tour section are powerful, and are beneficial to watch even if you aren’t in the New York area.

The other two tabs in this app, Explore and Timeline, help the user recount the events of that day and what’s planned for the future. Pictures and events are mapped out in a fairly straightforward fashion, and overhead views of what the current construction, and finished product, will look like in regards to the memorial and museum.

These features are all available offline. Online features include additional photos in the explore section of the app. For non-U.S. visitors, a free wifi hotspot map is included with the app to help you utilize the full potential of the app on your WiFi enabled iOS device.

Opinions on the relevance of this app, whether it’s in poor taste or not, and if it really offers a realistic look at the events of September 11th will be up to the user to decide. Walking tours using the iPhone as a guide are a great concept, and more apps should follow this kind of on-demand tour approach for other tourist heavy areas. Personally, if it helps my kids or grandkids get a better sense of an important historical event, I’m all for it.

For more information on the 9/11 Memorial, please visit national911memorial.org.

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