A couple of weeks ago, during a weekend trip to New York City, I visited the 9/11 Memorial for the first time. When I lived in Manhattan 7 or 8 years ago, I visited Ground Zero a few times to reflect and to remind myself. Each visit offered the same bleak view of a massive dirt pit with no activity. Today the memorial is complete and several of the new buildings on the WTC site are well under way. The present development and the eventual completion of the WTC site will help to remind as well as heal I think.
You need to obtain tickets for the 9/11 Memorial in advance. They’re free, but you need to designate a specific date and time to visit. The security is pretty heavy as you’d imagine, but not onerous. Although I did visit on a chilly winter morning, so I can only imagine the security and queuing getting worse in the summer. The perimeter of the WTC site is where most of the current construction is taking place. On the east side of the site there is a squarish building that is swiftly moving towards completion. But much more dramatic is One World Trade Center, which sits on the north side of the block and already rises many stories into the lower Manhattan sky. Looking almost straight up, I watched as a crane hoisted steel beams to the highest floors of the skyscraper. Even though it was a Sunday, there was activity all around, with construction workers cutting rebar, setting loads on cranes, and moving to and fro.
The interior plaza of the WTC site is mostly finished. The grounds have been landscaped and the memorial is complete. However, the museum is not finished and seems to be on hold at the moment. The memorial consists of two enormous square pools marking the places where the north and south towers stood. The pools are sunk into the ground about 20-25 feet. Water cascades down to the bottom and disappears into a smaller square at the base of each pool. Each pool is ringed by a steel railing that contains the names of all those who were killed at the site on 9/11.
As I first walked around the south pool, I immediately felt the immense size. The size of the pool and also the size of what would have been the south tower. The mood was very somber to me.
I stopped at one point and ran my fingers over one of the names on the railing. Cut into metal plate was the name Mary Lou Hague. I wondered who she might have been, and in doing that she became more real to me. Back home in Boston, I Googled “Mary Lou Hague” out of curiosity. I learned that she had worked as an analyst at an investment bank in the south tower. She was almost the same age as me, but there were these ten and a half years that I’d lived that she hadn’t. She looked like a nice person and was quite attractive, too, which for some reason made things even sadder. I thought about this person who I didn’t know, and would never know, and it made the events of 9/11 more real and less abstract for me. It also made me want to do more with my life, to see that I use this time on earth to the fullest.