Siegel visits National September 11 Memorial in New York City
May 15, 2012
With the placement of a single beam, One World Trade Center, which is scheduled for completion in 2014, reached a height of 1,270 feet and surpassed the Empire State Building as the tallest structure in New York City.
It is symbolic that this momentous occasion occurred approximately one year after U.S. Special Forces killed Osama Bin Laden, the man who orchestrated the September 11th terrorist attacks.
While the death of Bin Laden marked the end of a nightmarish chapter in our country’s history, the loss and sadness of September 11, 2001, remains. Nowhere was this incomprehensible sorrow and emptiness felt more than at the 9/11 memorial, located at the base of One World Trade Center.
My family and I recently took a trip to New York City. I did all the requisite things tourists seem to do in the Big Apple; I saw a Broadway show, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and even went to a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden. In other words, pretty standard tourist stuff.
However, the most memorable part of my trip to New York City was my visit to the National September 11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan, where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood and where thousands died on that horrible day 10 years ago.
When visiting the sight of a senseless tragedy, it is often difficult to make sense of the death and destruction that occurred there. I had visited Ground Zero once before, a few years ago, when it was still very much a construction site. Back then, I had tried to find something, anything, with which I could identify.
I left Ground Zero that day feeling only confusion and sadness. When I visited the site last month, I was determined to make sense of the madness.
On the early April day I visited, the memorial was packed. It was cool and sunny, eerily reminiscent of September 11, 2001, the day when this place was changed irreparably.
There has been some controversy regarding the design of the 9/11 memorial, but I believe it is a fitting tribute to one of the most harrowing days in American history. All told, I probably spent less than an hour at the memorial during my visit there this year, but what I took away from this place will stay with me forever.
At the footsteps of the fallen towers lie two large reflecting pools. Water pours down the sides of each of these pools into a deeper hole at the center and plunges out of sight. The pools are surrounded by the names of all 2,983 people who died in the September 11th attacks.
As I stared out across the massive reflecting pool at the base of what was once the World Trade Center’s south tower, I realized the poignancy of the memorial’s design. Water collects at the bottom of the reflecting pool, but the deeper hole at its center will never be filled. A part of us was lost on 9/11 that we will never get back.
Michael Arad, the Israeli-American architect who designed the memorial, named it “Reflecting Absence,” and this feeling of loss permeates throughout the memorial. In an interview with Studio 360, Arad described his design as “the built equivalent of a moment of silence, this idea of absence, of making visible and present what is no longer here.”
However, the 9/11 memorial also provides hope for the future.
Water, a universal symbol of revitalization and renewal, figures prominently in the memorial’s design. Cascading down into the reflecting pools, water fills the void left by the tower’s destruction. Water rebuilds.
A stone’s throw from the footprint of the south tower stands a lone callery pear tree. It’s a bit unbalanced, with its foliage seeming to favor one side, and it’s supported by wooden beams. This is a survivor tree. Pulled from the wreckage of Ground Zero, the callery pear was nursed back to health and returned to the memorial last fall. This spring, the survivor tree blossomed. The survivor tree endures.
At the 9/11 memorial, I was able to come to terms with what happened on September 11, 2001.
Accepting grief is difficult, but the 9/11 memorial reminded me that it is possible to find hope even within profound sadness. It is possible to rise from the ashes; One World Trade Center, climbing ever skyward until it will tower above every building in New York City, is proof of that.
In the hustle and bustle of New York City, the 9/11 memorial is grounded and still. While the world rushes, the 9/11 memorial takes its time.
Built as a testament to man’s capacity for hate, this place leaves its visitors with a sense of hope amid the darkness of an unfathomable tragedy. It is truly a place that everyone needs to visit.