It seemed appropriate to write about the National September 11 Memorial and Museum today. I do want to clarify a couple of things. First the National September 11 Memorial and Museum is currently just a Memorial. The projected date for the Museum to open is Spring 2014. Secondly even though it is called the National September 11 Memorial and Museum it is not funded by or overseen by the government. It is a private entity and funded by donations. The Memorial recognizes all who were killed at the three attack locations on September 11, 2001 – World Trade Center, Shanksville, PA and the Pentagon. It also recognizes the 6 people including the pregnant woman and her unborn child who were killed in the Feb 26, 1993 terrorist bombing at the World Trade Center.
I would suggest you start your visit to the Memorial and the Tribute Center, 120 Liberty St where you can view 5 small galleries that tell the timeline of September 11 from the attacks to the rebuilding and sign up for a walking tour. www.tributewtc.org/walktours. The Tribute Center is a project of the September 11 Families Association and opened in September of 2006. Walking tours led by volunteers who have a personal connection to September 11 started in the fall of 2005. Each walking tour is led by either a family member, first responder, downtown resident, survivor or someone who volunteered at the site. The basic concept behind Tribute is person to person history. You will hear the facts of September 11, the development of the original WTC will be discussed, the rescue, the recovery and the rebuilding will be explained. But by far the most amazing part will be hearing the stories of the two docents leading your tour. I have personally been volunteering since February 2006.
The tour starts at the Tribute Center, proceeds to Greenwich Street where you see and learn about the FDNY Memorial. This is also the “Photo Op Spot” to get the great photo of 1 WTC and 7 WTC. Once you are on the Memorial you are too close to 1 WTC to get a photo of the whole building. The tour then continues through security, under the south bridge which is the last remaining above ground piece of the original WTC. One more security checkpoint and you are standing on the Memorial Plaza. If the buildings were still standing, you would be in the lobby of the Marriott (formerly the Vista) Hotel. The Memorial Plaza is and should be considered hallowed ground. Of the 2,749 people who were killed here on September 11, 2001, 40% of their families have never had any human remains. One of the first things you will notice is the trees. When the Memorial Plaza is completed there will be 400 trees. If you look north to south, the trees appear to be random. In a few years the trees will have grown to their full height, as you look east to west the tress will be arched to form the look of an arbor or the entrance to a cathedral. As you approach the South Memorial pool, you will hear the sounds of the waterfall and the sounds of the city will drift away. Once you walk past the last row of trees, you are standing in what would have been 2 WTC or the South Tower. The last row of trees before the pool is where the outside walls of the South Tower used to stand. The trees mark the acre in size. The black granite in front of you contains the names of the 595 people killed in the South Tower, the passengers and crew of the flight that crashed into the south tower, the passengers and crew killed on the plane and in the Pentagon, the passengers and crew of United 93 and all first responders – 343 FDNY, 23 NYPD, 37 PAPD as well as a court officer, FBI agent and WTC security people. There names are etched out because they are gone. Below the granite panel there is a shelf of water that will become the waterfall then pond and then become a waterfall again disappearing into a void that you taken see the bottom of. You can touch the water. You can rub water over a name. And whether it is very hot out or very cold out you can always touch the names because the panel is cooled in the summer and heated in the winter. The north pool is similar in design but has different names etched into it. The names of 1360 people who were killed in the 1 WTC or the North Tower, the passengers and crew of the plane that crashed into the North Tower and the people who were killed in the Feb 1993 bombing.
There is all kinds of interesting facts and stories I could tell you about “meaningful adjacencies”, the rebuilding, the survivor tree, the surrounding neighborhood, the new Museum and St Paul’s Chapel and an urban legion but then you won’t need to take a tour. 🙂 You can go to the Memorial by yourself but trust me you will get so much more out of the experience if you do a Tribute Center walking tour.