It was my first visit to the 9/11 memorial yesterday. A clear, cold day with bright blue skies, not dissimilar to the when the terrorists came. I should say from the outset that I don’t know anyone who died in the attacks, but I had been in New York the weekend before them, leaving on the Sunday and was in my office in London when the news came in. I had stayed at the Marriott between the Towers more times than I care to remember, walking through the foyers to get to, and from the Subway. When TV showed the pictures I was reconciling them against what I knew from my visits. When I read books later, I remember escalators mentioned in Stores where I had shopped.
So it was mixed feelings that I went to visit the Memorial yesterday. I had booked my ticket online, and printed off my ticket. I noted the requirement to take ID to the entrance and to arrive no more than 30 minutes before the time on my ticket.
Security was, perhaps not surprisingly, very heavy. The lack of space in the area means that you enter some distance away and walk for 8-10 minutes until you get to the entrance proper. Airport-style security was present – but I could keep my shoes on. The TSA could learn something from the staff there – friendly, efficient and ready to help – they were a delight to deal with whilst getting their job done in an efficient way.
One last ticket check and I was at the entrance to the area, near the South Pool. The pools themselves represent the footprint of each Tower.
The rows of trees are a very strong feature and break up the space in the respectful way. Walking over to the South Pool, the first thing I became aware of was the sound of the rushing water. Starting from under the names, the water cascades down to the bottom of the pool, and then again in to a large central square.
The names themselves are beautifully crafted, spaced to give each room, created in a clear and dignified font, it is to me a thing of beauty and strength which can compete with the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC.
It was slightly strange to see people posing in front of the Memorial, having group pictures taken by strangers to remember the day. Later in the day, speaking to friends who are New Yorkers, they seemed fine with this. I felt a personal obligation to walk all four sides of each memorial – how could I leave any group of people out? One family was taking a rubbing of a name, left quietly to undertake this task by the visitors.
The rhythm of the falling water became the backdrop to my walk. I noticed that at different times each face of water was illuminated by the sun. Making the water dance, illuminated and bright in contrast to the other three faces.
Some other pictures from my visit:
The Visitor Centre is not open at the moment, and I hope very much to return when it is. I would like to see how the gardens are holding up to the visitor numbers, how the trees have grown, and of course, how the memorial looks in the Spring sunshine.
The contrast of the calm against the huge amount of construction is evident from this picture. Building works are everywhere, not just in the World Trade Centre site, but in streets in all directions, spreading out from the WTC site. The side of the new building appearing to point to the Memorial in the morning sun.