Every room of the National September 11 Museum contains a strategically placed tissue container. It's a testament to just how raw and recent 9/11 stands in our collective memory. At the museum's dedication ceremony this morning, President Obama and other elected officials faced the task of recognizing the lives changed and lost on 9/11, while commemorating a time in our country's history that still seems very present.

The President's remarks focused on Welles Crowther [PDF], a 24-year-old man who worked in the South Tower and had a habit of carrying a red bandanna with him everywhere he went. Crowther is credited with saving an untold number of lives before dying upon the tower's collapse. "They didn’t know his name. They didn’t know where he came from. But they knew their lives had been saved by the man in the red bandana."

Obama then introduced Crowther's mother, Alison, along with one of the people Welles saved, Ling Young. Many in the audience, composed of members of the de Blasio and Bloomberg administrations, along with survivors, families, FDNY, NYPD, and PAPD officials, and downtown fixtures like Robert De Niro, Carl Weisbrod, and WTC developer Larry Silverstein, could be seen weeping.

One of Crowther's spare bandanas is enshrined in the museum's exhibit, which is roughly broken down into three parts: September 11, 2001, and life in America before and after the attacks.

Giant steel beams, an elevator motor the size of a small car, twisted firetrucks, and a meteoroid-like chunk of composite matter forged in the fires that burned at Ground Zero after the attack give you a sense of scale but also psychic distance. Objects like a melted telephone from the Pentagon, a water heater recovered from the wreckage of Flight 93 (the crew and their passengers planned to use boiling water to thwart their hijackers), and the countless number of badges, hats, messenger bags and shoes are all tragic because they're so quotidian.

The aural experience at the museum is filled with sirens, man-down beepers, shocked dispatchers, slack-jawed broadcasters.

But it's the voices of the dead and their loved ones that move you the most, and the museum is filled with them—voicemails left for husbands that will never be returned, voices expressing fear, voices filled with a determination to die if dying means saving lives.

After a brightly-lit room describes how cemented the World Trade Center was in New York lore, we get a sober crash course in Al Qaeda and terrorism. We see Ramzi Yousef's chemistry notes. A placard headlined "U.S. Government Awareness" is next to the famous CIA memo dated August 8, 2001, "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US." The museum posits that the failure to predict 9/11 with our intelligence rests mostly on "Restrictive federal laws, lack of clarity about the rules, and insular agency cultures."

Afghanistan and Iraq are mentioned in passing (the myth that Vice President Cheney "ordered" pilots to shoot down aircraft approaching Washington is repeated). There is a placard entitled "Who should be held accountable?" that directly implicates Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Another reads, "To prevent future attacks, the U.S. government instituted a Global War on Terror." There is no indication that in September of 2003, 69% of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was "personally involved" in plotting the 9/11 attacks.

This morning, one artifact in the exhibit stuck out because it seemed chronologically misplaced: a brick taken from Osama Bin Laden's Pakistani hideout, next to the iconic Situation Room photo on The Night We Took Him Out. The brick's stand was weighted down with sandbags. It seemed that its placement was only temporary, given that the President (who in his speech today noted that "our SEALS made sure justice was done") took a private tour of the museum with other elected officials prior to the ceremony.

These contemporary scars are mostly drowned out by mementos of support from around the country and around the world. September 11's impact rarely seems clearer than through a child's sympathetic drawing rendered in crayon.

This was the note former Governor Pataki struck when he cited the Virgil quote near the museum's entrance: "No day shall erase you from the memory of time." Another line from the Aeneid is perhaps more applicable for today's ceremony: "Trust one who has gone through it."