This year has been a special year for all of those mourning the 9/11 victims. On September 11, 2011 the first official 9/11 Memorial has opened up on the site the World Trade Center Towers used to stand. While I had not known any of this until I read it in the news when I was still in Germany, I have been even more desperate to go as soon as I got back from my Eurotrip.
I first logged onto the ticketing web site at the end of September, hoping to find a way to enter the Memorial soon. My friends had mentioned it could take up to a few months until a slot becomes avail. The tickets are basically for free. When booking them, you have the option to donate 10 or 20 USD or any other value entered. Or you don’t have to donate a cent if you don’t like. After giving in the requested personal information (it’s name, phone number, and address), the system showed me that the first possible date to look at the landmark would be …. an entire month from then! That was after ignoring a few dates during the week, as I had to work on those days. So I literally booked my ticket ONE MONTH ahead of time and originally wanted check out the 9/11 Memorial on Oct 29. Which was exactly the day the first and so far only snow fall hit New York (yup, just around the Halloween weekend, read more here). How truly unfortunate for me! The month after this I dedicated my free weekends to room searching and looking at
crappy apartments, so there was no real chance a visit could have worked out for me. I even almost forgot about my plans until last Monday, when I spontaneously secured a time slot for Friday 7 PM, less than a week from this date.
Now, I already knew from two months ago that getting to the Memorial means zigzagging through a huge chunk of the Financial District. So I made sure to be there exactly on time. When getting to the Memorial entrance, I saw a huge amount of barricades built up, which most likely had been used during busier times, I have no doubt about this. Some teenagers were checking my tickets, making fun of my boots (“Is that real fur?” Morons!) until I arrived at the next group of memorial workers, who checked my ticket once more. Then over to an inside area resembling the security check of an airport. ”Take of all metal items and put your bag in this basket, please,” a security officer ordered. Right on, through the beeping frame, and on to the final stop: More employees who for the very last time stamped a star-like symbol onto my printout! Wheeew! The way from there to the Memorial takes a while, too. Guess I was lucky no queue was waiting, otherwise all of this would have taken four times as long.
The 9/11 Memorial consists of two large pools with a black hole inside (at least that is what it looked like at night.) I know this sounds bad, but the North and South pool are beautifully illuminated because of the light shining through the carved in names of the disaster victims. The pool is made up of waterfalls to the sides which blend into the still water on the ground. Names are written along the frame of the pool, making out the identified victims, who reach up to 3,000. I first walked around the South Pool, taking in the sights and the atmosphere. All these different names, the calm pond and the moving water fall, the dark hole in the middle – a very festive but also sad atmosphere I found. And all along, the Freedom Tower hovers over the scene. More buildings are meant to be built along the side of the Memorial, making out the new Financial Center of New York in the future.
I then went on to the North Pool. A museum is built on the side between both sites, but I am unsure what can be found inside. It looked so pretty, with its light shining from the inside. When I stood at the North Pool my eyes fell on the inscription of a woman. Helen F. and her unborn child, it read. This really took me aback. Overall, the entire experience at the former WTC was a very sad experience, bringing back the memory of the day when and how I had found about one of the biggest tragedies of the 21st Century.
There were many cops at the memorial site of course, with watch dogs. A group of people was standing around them and asking them questions. I took this picture of two dogs, who must have been disturbed by the crowd (or their Master).
Then, on my way out, I walked past an illuminated tree. This tree was partly charcoal on one side. An employee was explaining how they had to fasten the metal ropes around it when Hurricane Irene swept through New York (read more here). A wreath made of flowers was put up on one side, in military manner.
Before exiting on the long walk back out, I entered the souvenir store, which you can’t miss when visiting the Memorial. There were a few items of victims and survivors built up for display in glass cases. I saw a fireman hat – the fireman himself had survived. Then a wallet with a 2-Dollar-bill. The story is beautiful: A 58-year-old man had proposed with this 2-Dollar-bill not too long before the tragedy (and gotten “yes” as an answer!). He kept it on him ever since. Sadly, he didn’t survive his trip to work 10 years ago and died on 9/11 – his personal items were restored among the ruins.
What interests, yes, even fascinates me most about 9/11 are the stories the relatives of the victims have to tell. A short film described four life stories, which were put together in a five-minute-documentary. How heart-gripping this movie was! A boy who had lost his father. A wife who had lost her husband and finally remarried after 10 years. And many more peeks into the lives of people who have experienced an earth-shaking tragedy !
The documentary also showed what eventually is planned to become of the WTC site. New York is intending on building the aforementioned Financial Center around the pools. Trees are supposed to fill the distance between these pools and in the end become a forest, perhaps an oasis of mourn, peace, and quietness. It looked quite advanced on the graphics.
9/11 is such a sensitive topic. When I was in New York in 2010, I didn’t see much of a memorial service going on that day. I was even quite disappointed at how careless most people, including my former roommate, thought about the event. They just shrugged their shoulders and didn’t waste another thought on it. But then a local New Yorker told me about his time, when he had been in this City, at the very same day 10 years ago. How awful and uncertain the hours and days after the tragedy had been for everyone. How people were trying to get past the police barricades in Chelsea, because they lived 40 blocks away from the WTC. And how they had still smelled the smoke, dust, and filth in the air. When he had stuck out his hand to get a hold of flying pieces in the air, he saw it had been business papers. Shredded, burnt pieces, flying all the way from the Financial District up to Chelsea! And how eventually everyone had to deal with what happened in New York, how crucial it was to survival and to get on with life, to find solace in everyday activities. And some people are still fighting health problems nowadays. Asthma being the most harmless form. Yes, I can go on and on, but maybe I’ll save that for another post!
I will most likely revisit the 9/11 Memorial, this time during the day. Have you had the chance to go there yet?
Tell me how and when you found out about September 11, 2001!
[For more pictures on 9/11, go to A Picture Every Day!]