Honoring Thousands of Our Own

I suspect that I am like many New Yorkers who have resisted visiting the 9/11 Memorial since it opened a year ago.

The resistance comes from fearing that a visit will harsh the buzz of our lives and bring back excruciating memories of the al Qaeda terrorist attacks and the months thereafter. I didn’t know any of the victims and I was at home on the Upper West Side that day, but for all of us New Yorkers, it was an unbearably tragic, frightening, traumatic time.

Then again, I really wanted to pay my respects to the victims there, where they were slaughtered.

This summer I finally worked up the emotional reserves to make the mandatory online reservation to visit the memorial.  I got a reservation for the same day and it appeared that there were plenty of tickets available in the afternoon, even during the height of tourist season in NYC.

The sadness stomach-ache kicked in while I was making reservations.  Some tears began on my bus ride down to the site as the memories of that day returned.

But once I arrived at the memorial, dealing with the lengthy entrance ritual and the entertaining spectacle of so many endomorphisized tourists was enough to lull even the most anxious  visitor into dispassionate docility.

First, they funneled us into a replica of Temple Grandin’s cattle-calming pens.

We walked through a seemingly endless maze, showing our tickets over and over until we finally emerged into the memorial.

And it was…. Breathtaking.  Monumental. Awesome, in the true sense. Perfect.

The architect, Michael Arad, who won the design contest (over 5201 other entrants) is brilliant.  His design created gorgeous waterfalls, 30 feet high, pouring into the footprints of the two towers.  In the middle of each footprint is a “center void” into which the water disappears.  Surrounding each footprint are bronze panels with the names of all 2,983 people who were murdered on September 11, 2001 and on February 26, 1993 (when six people were killed and thousands injured in an Islamic terrorist bombing in the parking lot under the World Trade Center).  The names are much larger than I expected.

There are kiosks that help visitors  locate particular names (which are grouped “based on layers of ‘meaningful adjacencies’ that reflect where the victims were on 9/11 and relationships they shared with others who were lost that day” according to the  9/11 Memorial brochure)

Surrounding the footprints are hundreds of locally-sourced swamp white oak trees and “the Survivor Tree” that was planted at the twin towers in the 1970’s.

The memorial will become even more beautiful and peaceful and spiritual as the trees grow and the construction surrounding it abates. A museum will open in the near future.

I am glad I went.  If you haven’t been yet, you should go when you feel ready – you won’t regret it.  The memorial is unique and stunning, a profound commemoration of the thousands we lost.


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