life in and around NYC is insane

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The 9/11 Memorial

A very emotional day yesterday.

Every American who was old enough to be aware of his or her surroundings in 2001 has a 9/11 story. The shock, the fear, the horror of that day is indelibly imprinted on our collective consciousness, and each of us adds his or her experiences to our memory and understanding of that day.

I'd spent most of my career working in lower Manhattan or Jersey City, but in September of 2001 I was fortunate to be with a Long Island based law firm, and with no court appearances scheduled in the city that day, my plan was to go to my office and focus on paperwork.

I was driving to work, I had the radio on, and Scott Shannon was interviewing a man who had just seen an airplane hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. During the interview, the witness suddenly exclaimed that a second plane hit the other tower.

I think I knew in that moment that the world had changed, and not for the better.

I watched the rest of the morning's events unfold on a small TV in the firm's gym/rec room.

I was so lucky to be elsewhere that day.  I knew people who died, people who lost loved ones, people who were displaced from their homes, people who emerged from the site covered in ash and dust.

Ditto Drew. He was supposed to start teaching at a school in lower Manhattan in September 2001, but fortunately landed a job in a district on Long Island.

Since then I've watched the rebuilding and revitalization of lower Manhattan. Walk through the Financial District now and you wouldn't know it was the site of such devastation almost 13 years ago. It's a thriving, crowded neighborhood, different from what existed before the attack, but just as vital and exciting.

I knew I'd have to visit the memorial and museum. And Saturday was the day.

I've been a regular commuter through the World Trade Center these past ten years, but Drew hadn't been down there since . . . Well, he's not quite sure, but probably before 2001. So it was interesting to see the neighborhood through his eyes.

Remember that the original World Trade Center was not just the Twin Towers. It was a 16 acre campus, with 7 office buildings gathered around an open plaza, with an underground shopping concourse connecting three subway lines and the PATH trains to New Jersey.

The rebuilt World Trade Center has office towers on the northern part of the campus, and will eventually have a transit hub as well.

But the southern part of the campus, along Liberty Street ...

The memorial is a serene plaza, with beautiful trees. Where each of the towers once stood is now a reflecting pool, a full acre in size, with water falling down . . .deep down, many stories below street level. Very peaceful.

And then you enter the museum. There's a cavernous space, dotted with a few artifacts. A fire engine. The antenna that sat on top of the North Tower. The last beam of steel removed from the site. How the towers were built, and how Philippe Petit tight rope walked between two towers.

There's a room with the photos of each person who died.

You can see the actual slurry wall.

Drew and I both shuddered when we found the sign that used to sit on the street, telling people all abnout the World trade Center.

But nothing prepares you for the intensity of the "September 11 room".

This is the heart of the museum. A collection of artifacts, photos, audio tapes, film clips...the Twin Towers as landmark and icon. The February 1993 attack on the Trade Center ... I watched that unfold from my office in  Jersey City. The events and aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. There are displays devoted to the attack on the Pentagon and Flight 93, but the focus is on the events in lower Manhattan.

It's the first time I've gone through a history museum where I'd lived through the history being displayed.  It was like going back in time 13 years.  It was painful, it was cathartic, but it was so worthwhile.  I cried through most of the exhibits.

The newspaper headlines from that morning -- it was primary day, elections were being held.  The "missing" posters that were all over the city afterwards.  Ordinary things, like PATH quickcards.

What really made me cry, though, was the model of the Trade Center in its heyday.  How many times did I spend my lunch hour sitting on that plaza, by the reflecting pool.  Even when there weren't concerts, it was a nice place to bring your sandwich and enjoy.

Afterwards we walked down to Battery Park.  The Sphere, the sculpture that had graced the plaza of the Trade Center, is located in the park.  I'd visited it before, and wanted to show Drew. was gone!  Apparently the city moved it to another part of the park last year, and we couldn't find it.  We should have kept looking.

We wound up in Chinatown for dinner.  Our favorite Wo Hop.  A little mood changer after such a solemn day.

The new One World Trade Center, as seen from Liberty Street.

The last column to be removed from the site.


The slurry wall.

The new transit hub, as seen from the 9/11 Memorial plaza.

One World Trade Center, as seen from the Memorial Plaza.


The reflecting pools.  

A quote from Virgil sets the tone:

 The Survivors staircase.  The damage isn't from 9/11, it's from the wrecking ball before someone thought to preserve it.


The museum itself.

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