Thursday, October 27, 2011

New York – Visiting the 9/11 Memorial

Ten years ago, on Friday 26 October, 2001 to be exact, I took a flight to New York City. A month before that, on September 12, 2001 my husband and I were booked on a flight to Paris but because of the events of the 11th all airports were closed and our trip was cancelled (you can read about it on my post here.) This is why ten years ago this month I was going to New York to show my support to the city. Earlier this month my husband and I went to New York again and visited the 9/11 Memorial. (Click on collages to enlarge photos and click again to see better.)

Free passes to view the 9/11 Memorial are given for a specific time and date and can be reserved up to six months in advance (a donation is requested.) I had read that passes to view the 9/11 Memorial had been completely booked through mid-November, but before we left I tried to reserve our passes on line. There was some available time on Tuesday 4th October, 2011 at 3:00 pm, and that was fine with us. I printed the passes which also gave directions to the site.

On that Tuesday we went to the area quite early and walked through the now famous Zuccotti Park – where the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations are taking place. We proceeded toward the 9/11 Memorial entry area. The Ground Zero Memorial and Museum are officially called the 9/11 Memorial and the 9/11 Memorial Museum. The Museum is still being built and will open in September 2012.

We waited in line for a short moment then followed a guide. We entered through a single security checkpoint and showed our Passes and identification papers, and again several times along the way. Security guards checked our bags also. We followed the guide along a blue fabric wall. On the other side of the wall is ongoing construction on the One World Trade Center building and another building. The site is fenced off. The 7 World Trade Center Building has been completed.

As we walked I took pictures of the constructions sites around us.

While waiting to go through another Security check point I watched tiles being brought up the skyscraper.

Then I took my Sony telephoto to photograph the workers installing the tiles – they were up quite high.

We were getting closer to the Memorial as I could see the Welcome sign and Memorial map.

Further on I could read Mayor R. Bloomberg’s Welcome Message (click on picture twice to enlarge.)

Then we were in the large tree-open plaza. This 8-acre plaza is eco-friendly (with storm water, pest management and irrigation to conserve water and energy.) The suspended paving system that supports the trees allows their roots to grow in the rich soil under a series of concrete tables. When completed the plaza will be planted with 442 swamp white oak trees (Quercus bicolor) which were picked because of their durability and leaf color. (The trees were selected from nurseries located in New York, Pennsylvania and near Washington DC to symbolize areas impacted on 9/11.)

People were walking around or sitting on stone benches. On one side of the plaza though you can still see the ongoing construction going on behind the fence.

My husband took a picture of me while I photographed the panel giving information on the names on the Memorial.

As we were getting closer to the pools we could hear the sound of water – the same cascading sound as waterfalls make. It was an overcast day and it started to rain. It did not last long.

The 9/11 Memorial was dedicated on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I watched the dedication on television and at the time did not know that I would be able to obtain tickets to visit the site. Below are some of the pictures I took from my TV on the 11th of September 2011.

Approximately half of the 16-acre site is occupied by the 9/11 Memorial. It is located where the former World Trade Center complex stood. Set within the footprints of the original twin towers are now two enormous reflecting pools and waterfalls. The pools are best seen from above I am sure, but I was at street level. I found some aerial renderings of the pools on the Net, showing both of them and how the area will look when totally completed.

The Memorial was designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker. Their design was selected from a global competition that received 5,201 submissions from 63 countries. The reflecting pools are the center of the Memorial. The pools, which are the exact footprints of the Twin Towers, are like empty voids meant to be a visible reminder of the absence of the towers. As I approached one pool the sound of the waterfall was drowning out the noise of the construction sites. The sight of the immense pool was quite moving. I took many photos (over 280.)

Each granite pool (one for each fallen Tower) is impressive. First of all you have to be there to really see how big they are as it is not the same when looking at a film or picture – each is about one acre. The waterfall is hypnotizing. The water goes down 30 feet. They are the largest man made waterfalls in America – 660,000 gallons of water re-circulating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Arad, the architect of the pool said “I think what I wanted to do here is really encourage that moment of introspection and to bring people to the very edge of these enormous voids and reflect on what happened here that day.

He added “I think that these reflections are going to be very personal in nature.”

We walked around each pool reading the names as we went by. The bronze panels around the pools are etched with 2,983 names - every single person who died on September 11, as well as the six terror victims from the attack on the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993. The names are organized in groups according to the locations in which the 9/11 victims died.

The bronze parapets mounted above the channels feeding the waterfalls invite you to come closer and read the names. I read that the families of the victims were pleased to see the names of their loves one so they would not be forgotten. I noticed several Armenian names, of course. In the above collage are the names of Edward Mardikian, 29, Sales Manager, Ohio State University graduate. His family has funded The Peter E. Mardikian Scholarship Fund at OSU. Aram Iskenderian, 41, Vice President at Cantor Fitzgerald. Garo Voskerijian, 43, born in Cairo and lived in Long Island. Alysia Basmajian, 24, Accountant at Cantor Fitzgerald. Carl Bedigian, 35, from Queens, NY. He was off-duty on 9/11 but went to save people because he was a NYC firefighter. As I read the names I looked over the edge of the bronze panel and gazed at the water in the pool reflecting the sky and heard the weeping waterfall in the background – it was very touching and poignant.

Some relative or friends of victims were making paper rubbing of names with pencils or crayons. I helped one of the ladies holding the paper while she traced over a name of a lost friend. She told me that the rubbing of his name was intended for her church of which he had been a member.

There is an electronic Memorial Guide which indicates where the names are located.

A volunteer guide told us that at night when the waterfalls are illuminated the bronze plates are lighted from beneath and each names glows as people walk by. The architect, Arad, designed two 30-foot square openings in the bottom of the pools. From the plaza level the bottoms of these inner openings are not visible. You can only see the top of the dark openings where light and water are flowing into infinite darkness.

As we walked from the North Pool to the South Pool I looked inside the unfinished 9/11 Memorial Museum. The Museum entry pavilion was designed by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta. They designed a low, obliquely horizontal building that can be seen from all directions. It is made of glass panels glittering in the light and going well with the Memorial pools. I understand that when finished the Museum will have exhibitions honoring the victims of the attacks and their portraits. Alice M. Greenwald, the Museum Director, says “The exhibition will also explore the background leading up to the events, and examine their aftermath and continuing implications.” I joined a group of people who was peering inside and I could distinguish large steel columns – they are from the original World Trade Center.

We strolled around the Memorial pools and plaza for a while and then to the exit along the long blue wall. People were taking pictures of the constructions sites through little openings in the wall. My husband was one of them. The picture he took is below, on the lower right hand side.

We were supposed to start our tour by going to the 9/11 Memorial Visitor Center, but we spent our time at the “Occupy Wall Street” park. We ended our visit at the visitor center. Admission is free. They have genuine artifacts and rotating exhibits. As we entered we saw a large TV screen at the end of the room showing scenes from the 9/11 attacks and renderings of the finished new World Trade Center complex.

There is also a Museum shop where books, DVDs, apparel and assorted souvenirs can be purchased. They state that all net proceeds are dedicated to developing and sustaining the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I purchased several postcards – here is one below. It is called “Forever Tall” (Psaris Productions.)

When completed in late 2013 the new One World Trade Center will contain 3.1 million square feet of office space. There will be 55,000 square feet of retail and the tower will include a two-level observation deck at 1,362 feet (415 m) with a glass parapet extending to 1,368 feet (417 m) which was the heights of the original Twin Towers. A spire extending 408 feet above the roof parapet will make the building 1,776 feet tall (as a tribute to the year the United States Declaration of Independence was signed.) Soaring to 104 floors it will be the tallest building in Manhattan. Below is a photo showing One WTC at dawn followed by a computer rendering of the completed One World Trade Center (courtesy Wikipedia.)

Before leaving, I took some last photographs of the shimmering glass curtain of the skyscraper.

The 9/11 Memorial is a fitting tribute to the people who died on that day. I feel that it has captured the emotion of sorrow, remembrance but also affirmations of life and rebirth. Arad, the Memorial architect said: “We wanted to create a place that remarked on absence but also did so in a way that connected the site back into the life of the city.” It is such a place.


Kay L. Davies said...

This is fascinating. Every now and then, as I read, I'd find myself holding my breath, or gasping as I scrolled to the next photo.

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

CrazyCris said...

It's quite beautiful and awe-inspiring! And I can imagine very moving when you're inside... thanks for sharing!

Wanda..... said...

Your lovely post is amazing, haven't seen such great coverage elsewhere. Your photos and words captured the mood and reverence so well.

Sally Wessely said...

Not only are your photos amazing, but your presentation of your visit was sensitive and lovely - a memorial in and of itself. Thanks for sharing.

Ann said...


Frances said...

Vagabonde, this post is so well written, and researched, and the photographs add to your words so well.

As I told you, I used to work downtown, across Broadway from the current location of that concrete park that is the center of Occupy Wall Street. The twin towers were just a block further west, and if I had made a differing employment decision, I would have been working there on that September morning.

I have only been able to travel back downtown to that area once since the terrorists struck.

However, it's possible that the current activities of those involved in Occupy Wall Street might get me to return to the old neighborhood.

Best wishes to you and yours. xo

French Girl in Seattle said...

Dear Vagabonde-- You will receive many glowing reviews (all well deserved) for this thorough, well researched, captivating and ultimately moving post. Thank you. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

Pondside said...

Thank you for this. So many of the 'tours' of this site are difficult to follow, but I found your photos and explanation to be very clear. They gave me a very good picture of what the memorial looks like, what it's all about, and the scale of it.

The Broad said...

These are the best pictures of seen of this site and are much appreciated. You have a great sense of what people would want to see and really give a feel for the area and for the pathos of the place.

DJan said...

I am very moved by this post. I wondered what the Memorial is like, because it's not easy to understand when reading a description. This, on the other hand, gave me all the information and understanding I could have ever asked for. Thank you again and again for the incredible task you have completed here.

Thérèse said...

A moving post! Touching pictures.
Reflecting pools and waterfalls will remain unique.

FilipBlog said...

Very nice article. When we were there last year we could not see the tower yet and the memorial was not open.


Arti said...

Thank you for this moving tribute ... the Memorial is a fitting monument to honor the victims. The design is awesome, and when the light lit up the names, I'm sure it's be a poignant sight. I remember reading a book by Daniel Libeskind who designed the new WTC under construction now. And yes, I remember him stating the significance of the design, e.g. 1776 ft. tall...etc. One can see how much details and heart the designers put into the whole thing.

Kathy, the Single-minded Offshoot said...

Thank you for the chance to follow you, step by step, through this heart-wrenching yet comforting memorial. Many of us will never walk through it, but I now feel as if I've been there to see it all, and to be deeply moved by the heartfelt single-flower tributes.

Margaret said...

I am quite moved by the two one acre squares and shimmering water and black hole in the middle which appears bottomless. ...and the names surrounding the edge... Wow. It must really be something and I will see it someday. And reflect... The trees are an unexpected but lovely tribute. I am glad they allowed this to be a beautiful spot and not rebuild on it. You have done a fantastic job documenting this. Thanks!

Cloudia said...

excellent job!

Aloha from Honolulu

Comfort Spiral

> < } } ( ° >

Denise Covey said...

Hi there Vagabonde. I feel quite drained and emotional after reading your excellent with the gorgeous photographs. What a once-in-a-lifetime trip! I'm glad you went and you shared it with us.

I saw the official opening on TV. As you say, it is probably hard to get a perspective on those massive pools. Even on TV it was hard to tell how big they were.

So, thanks again. This was a special trip.

Denise :)

Denise Covey said...

Oops missed out your 'excellent commentary'...


TorAa said...

Your first photo is so right regarding the memorial of this day that changed the western world.

I will allways remember.
In fact, I did look at live TV when plane 2 crashed - I had no words but thought: What the &%%#¤ is going on.

Excellent report.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

A Beautiful Post, my dear. And for those of us who will never get there to see this---It was so moving and very touching and so beautifully written and photographed in every way. Thank you so very much. I got such a sense of the awesome solemnity and the courage, too. This is such a Thoughtfull Heartfelt Tribute. It is obvious that much understanding and gratitude went into the makings of this place of Honor. I LOVE the whole idea of these waterfalls---like never ending tears, yet, filled with Hope, too.

I am still not completely "well"...though I am better. I have not been visting anywhere....Please forgive my silence. Sending (((((HUGS))))).

Lonicera said...

Very moving - I now feel I've been there. The black holes in the middle of the water features intrigue me - I wonder if they symbolise the terror of that day. Lovely post.

Barb said...

You gave a wonderful overview and tour of the Memorial. I use 2 Sony cameras, too - the dSLR 100 and the Cybershot Hx9.

claude said...

Formidable post, Vagabonde !
J'ai été horrifiée par ce qui s'est passé à NY en ce tristement mémorable 11 septembre.
D'ailleurs le 11 septembre dernier, j'étais à la Foire du Mans avec mon Chéri pour exposer ses oeuvres, et je portais une pin's du drapeau américain sur mon vêtement.
L'idée de ne pas recontruire les Twin Towers au même emplacement est en elle seule une sorte d'hommage aux victimes. il ne fallait pas le faire.
Par contre me mémorial est génial.
Mon ami blogueur Olivier d'Evry est un amoureux de NY, et il a bien raison. J'aimerais visiter cette ville mais mon Chéri un peu moins. Il préfère la City de SLC.
Je trouve que NY n'est plus la même sans des tours jumelles.

Kay said...

Since I won't be able to get to New York anytime soon, I really appreciated this beautiful post. I am really impressed with the beauty of this memorial. I didn't realize how big and amazing the waterfalls were.

Ruth said...

It is no surprise that your post about the 9/11 memorial is thorough and beautifully composed, but it is such a treat all the same. I am very impressed with the design and concept of this park. Every aspect of it supports the best spirit moving forward, with the right amount of remembrance, and attention to the wounds of those deep holes. Even the waterfall drowning out all other sound must create a tremendous sense of meditative presence. Just beautiful! Thank you.

Ginnie said...

This is the best review yet of that memorial, Vagabonde! I feel like I know more about it today than when I watched the memorial service on 9/11 this year. THANK YOU for sharing so much of what you saw. This is a true gift to the city...let alone to the world!

Reader Wil said...

Merci de cette poste. C'est très intéressante. J'ai aussi agrandi vos photos. Elles sont très impressionnantes. Merci!
How cruel people are. When will this hatred ever stop?

PeterParis said...

I have been a few times to NYC … and love it! However, I was never there between 1972 and 2002, which means that I never saw the Towers. I went to the spot in 2002 when the disaster was still really visible, terrifying! Your report from the visit is incredibly complete, well written and illustrated! The design and the concept of the memorial seems really impressive, worthy… I imagine, thanks to your description, the strong feelings you must experience when visiting!

Friko said...

It's a wonderful memorial for a dreadful event. I am glad it's understated even if it is grandiose. Thank you for bringing it to me.

Elizabeth said...

What an interesting and informative post.
We live on 23rd Street about a mile from the site and though I have often biked nearby and have often been to the church, I haven't had the courage to actually go to the memorial yet. I will, but feel a little shaky about being brave enough.
Thank you for showing it to me.

Deborah said...

Oh my, this has left me sad and admiring and uplifted all at once. I had not been up to date about the details of what the 9/11 memorial looks like - it is astonishing. The pools are the perfect thing - literal and figurative reflection. I admire the thought (a competely inadequate word) behind the design of both the buildings and the park. But the part about the names being lit at night made my throat tight.
Thank you for taking me there, Vagabonde. If I never get there in person, I will feel at least like I know a little bit of it.

Olga said...

This is a very interesting story about the place. We had visited it this year. I have to say, it made a strong impression.

Al said...

Thank you for this superb tour - I've not seen this yet, even in photos, and you've done a superb job here. My family and I were on top of the WTC just one month before 9/11, so this strikes close to home. One day I need to post some photos from that trip. I've only been back to the site once since then, and the memorial did not exist yet.

Pauline said...

Thank you so much for visiting my blog, I might never have found yours otherwise. And I'm glad I arrived today. For someone on the other side of the world it is difficult to keep in touch with what is happening with the memorial. Your photos and text bring it alive to me.

By the way, I love the title of your blog. It brings to mind one of my favourite authors, Don Blanding and his Vagabond's House with which I very much identify.

Snowbrush said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story and your photos.

Rosaria Williams said...

A very impressive, and detailed visit. so good of you to share this with us.

Fennie said...

Very beautiful and emotionally stunning. Your blog does justice to the majesty of remembrance.

Marja said...

Very impressive and a very emotional visit The opening in the pool express it very well Thanks for sharing

Dutchbaby said...

Thank you for this heartfelt post. I, too, would have taken countless photos of those pools. They are beautiful in design and in concept.

Snøhetta also designed the Oslo Opera House. They are remarkable.

I love the postcard you selected. They are filled with meaning and beauty.

Unknown said...

C'est un magnifique reportage photos merci pour le partage .
Je te souhaite un très agréable weekend

Vagabonde said...

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my post on the 9/11 Memorial. I really appreciate it. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to read my post.

Merci pour vos visites sur mon blog. Je suis contente que ce billet sur le Memorial du 11 Septembre vous a plû. Merci encore pour avoir pris le temps de le lire.

Emm said...

I visited NYC in 2009 and cannot wait to visit again. I really would like to see the memorial as I found it incredibly moving to visit the WTC Visitor Centre and construction site when I was there. You took lovely photos. Thank you for sharing.

CityArts said...

Thank you very much for buying the Forever Tall postcard. It is actually the CITYarts Forever Tall Mural. You can find more detail from CITYarts website.

CityArts said...

Thank you very much for buying the Forever Tall postcard. It is actually the CITyarts Forever Tall Mural. You can see more detail from CITYarts website.

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