This past Friday, Josh and I were able to cross something off of our NYC bucket list: We visited the 9/11 Memorial. It was one of those rare days where neither Josh nor I had to work, so we decided to make reservations for that Friday afternoon.
Now, of course going to the memorial is free (though donations are appreciated for ongoing maintenance). However, you can’t just show up; you have to reserve a day and time either online or in person at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site at 20 Vesey St. (at Church Street) beginning at 9:00 a.m., the NYC & Co. kiosk at City Hall and the NY Water Taxi booth at the South Street Seaport — though there are a limited number of passes available on a first come, first serve basis. We got our tickets through the website and printed them off at home.
Our reservation was for 1:30, but we got there even earlier than we had anticipated, so after shuffling near the entrance for a minute, we finally decided to go in and see if they could take us early. Fortunately, this was no problem at all. What we encountered next was a security screening to rival that of most airports. We didn’t have to take off our shoes, but that was perhaps the only difference. And because so much of the museum and surrounding buildings are still under construction, getting through security and finally through the maze-like walk way to the memorial (as well as additional security screenings) was a fifteen minute process.
Admittedly, I did not mind this at all — I’d rather the memorial be maintained as a safe and peaceful place rather than a target for more violence. However, if you’re going in thinking it will be a quick visit, think again and plan for at least an hour.
Something else worthy of note, especially for the small-bladdered like me: there is no public bathroom at the memorial site. There may be in the future once construction is done (not sure?), but for now, you’re encouraged to go before you get there, or go to nearby Wagner Park, Battery Park, or Federal Hall.
Upon entering, I was immediately struck by the beautiful trees that lined the grounds surrounding the memorial — incredible to think this piece of land was a pile of rubble ten years earlier.
Once we got to the actual memorial pools, we were able to see into the cascading fountain, whose waterfalls measure thirty feet.
I’d seen some pictures and videos online, but one thing I didn’t know about was the seemingly bottomless center of each pool — often referred to as a “void.” I tried to get a good picture of this feature, but couldn’t because you have to be a few feet away to actually see the voids. Here’s a pic from NYC-Architecture to give you a better idea.
Surrounding the edge of the fountain were all of the names of those who lost their lives on that day and in the 1993 bombing. I appreciated how all of the names were meaningfully placed — at the request of their family — with their respective groups: first responders, flight passengers and crew, and those employed at and visiting the World Trade Center and Pentagon, along with those who died in the 1993 bombing. From these larger groups, names were placed next to those of close friends, family, and co-workers, based on requests from family.
Our reason for going was two-fold: as Americans we wanted to see and experience the memorial, especially since we live in the city now, but we were also looking for the name of a friend-of-a-friend who perished in one of the towers. Our friend had asked that we do a rubbing of the name, something that family will often do when they visit the memorial.
We knew the man’s name, but we weren’t exactly sure where it was on the memorial (later we learned that you can visit the Family Center to obtain the location of a name). We began at the South Pool, which has the majority of the first responders along with those who were in the building. We didn’t find his name here, so we moved on to the North Pool, eventually finding it about 3/4 of the way through.
Using a crayon and a piece of paper, we did a few rubbings and not surprisingly, we weren’t the only ones doing rubbings that day. There were also friends and family of victims who visited and left behind a flower or other types of mementos at the names of their loved ones.
After reading nearly 3,000 names, the loss became that much more real. I mean, it’s one thing to hear about the devastation and casualties on the news, but it’s another to see all of those names in one place — overwhelming, to say the least.
However, in the midst of all of this loss was one symbol of hope: the “survivor tree.” It stands out at the memorial as it is the only Callery Pear, among dozens of swamp white oaks. After the attacks, workers found its stump in the wreckage at Ground Zero. Eventually, it was nursed back to health in an NYC park and then relocated to the WTC construction site, where it stands today.
All in all, the memorial was beautiful, yet sobering — and it’s definitely an experience I’d recommend to those visiting NYC. Though the memorial pools and the surrounding parapets are complete, the museum and accompanying construction projects are still underway, scheduled to be completed in 2014.
For more info about planning a visit to the 9/11 Memorial, go to their official website: http://www.911memorial.org/