The blue-sky, sunny day was reminiscent of the beautiful morning of September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked and the World Trade Center towers fell.
During our trip to New York City in mid-October, my daughter and I visited the 9/11 Memorial. Now almost 15, my daughter was 18 months old on 9/11/01. She doesn’t remember it, but I will never forget the horror of watching on TV as the Twin Towers crumbled to pieces, the awful realization that our country was under attack, and the fear of not knowing what was happening and wondering if I should run back to school to pick up my son from his kindergarten classroom. My mother was flying into Austin that day to visit us, and I was relieved to reach her by phone when her plane was grounded in Dallas.
I couldn’t help reflecting on all this as we entered the memorial grounds. The memorial consists of two monumental black pools in the footprints where the former towers stood. Water cascading down the walls around the pools makes a rushing roar, a white noise that drowns out the sounds of the city.
The waterfalls pour into a square abyss in the center of each pool, which I found both disturbing and appropriate for conveying loss. A regularly spaced grove of swamp white oak trees provides shade, beauty, and life throughout the memorial plaza.
As you overlook the pools, your hands rest on the engraved names of the nearly 3,000 people who died where you are standing or in the other attacks on 9/11. The memorial’s website explains how the names are organized: “[The] names of the victims…are inscribed in bronze around the perimeters of the two pools. The arrangement of names is based on layers of ‘meaningful adjacencies’ that reflect where the victims were on 9/11 and relationships they shared with others who were killed that day, honoring requests from victims’ families for specific names to be next to one another.”
After looking at both pools we rested on a bench under the trees, taking in the view of the new One World Trade Center building, which would open the following month. The tallest skyscraper in the U.S. at a symbolic 1,776 feet, the new tower soars upward in a triangular point over the memorial pools.
I wish we’d also visited the Memorial Museum, which opened to the public in May, but the line to enter was long, and we needed to get back to the High Line for our return walk before it got dark. I will definitely make time for it the next time I’m in New York.
Postscript: I’ve held off on posting about my visit to the 9/11 Memorial because it didn’t feel right to write about it in concert with my garden-visit posts. The solemnity of Veteran’s Day today seems an appropriate moment. For more about my memory of 9/11, see a post I wrote on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
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