One of the most poignant moments on the trip to New York was our visit to Ground Zero – I had personally been looking forward to seeing the changes made to the site since our last visit had shown one of the the newly erected buildings towering over rubble and the other just beginning to take shape. That visit alone was really something and after feeling so detached from the original attack due to my age and lack of knowledge, I found it a really powerful and emotional experience to walk between the buildings and see this enormous pile of rubble where those majestic buildings once stood. It was horrifying to think what it must have been like for the people in the buildings, nearby or anywhere in the city, knowing what was happening or having no clue and just being petrified.
The museum devastated me. I don’t even know how to explain it to anyone who hasn’t been – it is just the saddest place I have ever been and to hear the last calls made by people in the towers to their loved ones is just beyond anything I have experienced. Looking at pictures of the toppling towers and hearing those desperate and terrified voices as they took those last moments to express their love and fear just tore me apart and I was a mess afterwards. On that trip, it poured with rain as we walked around – quite suiting the mood.
On this trip, the new buildings were glinting with sunlight and rainbows bounced through the water pouring from the fountains. The grounds are now a very odd place to walk around, strangely peaceful but at the same time, still heartbreaking. The work continues and the new museum is yet to open, with a sculpture being created from the remnants of metal taken from the buildings’ original foundations. They ask for donations rather than charging people to visit, and there are maps available to find where different groups of people are remembered.
The names of all of those who were died in the North or South Tower collapse, or trying to save those trapped amongst the rubble, have all been remembered individually with their names engraved on each of the two fountains – the largest man-made waterfalls in North America – that now stand “within the footprints of where the Towers once stood”. As you can see above, their fire crews, ambulance crews or any other affiliation has also been recognised, and every year, on each of their birthdays, a white rose is placed in their name. This was the bit that really caught a lump in my throat. This is the bit that makes us realise this happened to real people and that their memory lives on in the families, children and loved ones who survived – the same ones who received the frantic messages in those last moments.
We arrived at the site just a few hours after midday and in the grounds there was also a sign stating that at lunchtime of that day, three 9/11 volunteers had completed a total of 2,983 hours of service to the memorial – with one hour dedicated to each of the names listed on the memorial. This was just one very small, but important part of the 37,500 hours that the entire 9/11 volunteer corps had amassed since the memorial’s opening on 9/11/11.
Have you been to the 9/11 memorial? Or to see the rubble that lay before? What was your experience like?