Sitting down to write about my recent visit to the 9/11 Memorial I am really at a loss for what to say. So much has been written about this ten-years-in-the- making Memorial on the site of the World Trade Center.
Some people love it. Others think it is mundane. Others talk about all the controversy. Hard to know how to add to the discussion.
The experience felt odd at first. Heading to lower Manhattan, coming up on the massive construction zone, making our way through the line and the security check, waiting for huge pieces of equipment to be moved and watching groups of school kids sporting foam Statue of Liberty headgear didn’t feel all that reverent.
But soon, the reality took hold. The two large square pools, cascading 30 foot water falls flowing in an orderly manner into black voids and name after name after name wrapped around the pools, brought home the reality that this is a grave site. It is sacred ground and a place to speak quietly, offer a prayer and remember lives lost.
Someone described it as an “overwhelming aesthetic of emptiness.” Not very comforting, but appropriate.
We walked around both “Towers” looking for our son’s college friend who had tragically just started a job with Cantor Fitzgerald in the North Tower. My stomach clinched in real pain when we found his name. I wonder how his parents feel when they come here. I hope they find some measure of peace that he and all the others will be remembered with love.
I know I’ll go back. I want to watch the growth of the Survivor Tree–a small pear tree plucked from the massive devastation known as Ground Zero and nursed back to health. Now it is planted in the middle of the eight acre space, the ultimate metaphor for the power of nature and the will to survive.
Part of my memory of this visit will be our visiting St. Paul’s Chapel, New York’s oldest public building in continuous daily use.
Amazingly the small structure where George Washington worshiped on his Presidential inauguration day remained standing when everything around it crumbled.
While covered in ash, dust and debris, it was turned into a haven for workers at the WTC. Rescuers prayed and grieved, ate and slept there.
I immediately recognized the Chapel’s long iron fence, shown on the 24/7 coverage of the attacks. It became a location for posters asking for help finding loved ones and eventually a make shift Memorial when it became clear they weren’t going to be found.
I was struck by the contrast between the rows of headstones in the small church yard–some of them over 200 years old–and the two reflecting pools–one acre each–close by representing the deaths of 2,977 people. The magnitude of the death and destruction hit home to me.
The Chapel now houses displays from the events surrounding 9/11, personal items, rescuers’ equipment and the scratched pews, marked by the rescuers equipment. They tell the story of the eight months it was a refuge.
The redeveloped area will include the Memorial, Museum, commercial office space, retail and connections to public transportation. I f you are planning to go in the near future, be aware you need to get a ticket to reserve your time of entry. It is free but you need a pass. Go to the 9/11 Memorial Web site for this information.
I hope you will share your thoughts about the experience if you have been to the 9/11 Memorial.