Standing in front of the September 11 memorial I can recall exactly where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001 when the first plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City.
In my Canadian home, with my husband safely at work in a Calgary skyscraper and my children in classrooms at school, my mouth gaped open at the site of Ground Zero as the unimaginable horror of the 9/11 attack played out.
I don’t know how long I stood there, possibly minutes, perhaps hours.
Until last year I had never visited New York City. There was no doubt in my mind that when the opportunity came I wanted to visit the World Trade Center site and the 9/11 Memorial.
Yet my nagging conscience kept poking me as to what was my reasoning for wanting to go. Was it to truly to show my respect or was it morbid curiosity of what my southern neighbors had endured that fateful September day?
Flying into New York my stomach churned. Somehow being present in the air space over NYC suddenly brought the reality out of the television set. How had New Yorkers overcome the events of September 11th?
How had they managed to get on with their lives? The images of Ground Zero that leapt from my TV screen remained etched in my mind. It seemed inconceivable what the people of this city might remember.
St. Paul’s Chapel and Other New York 9/11 Memorials
St Paul’s Chapel sits outside New York’s Memorial site but directly across from where the Twin Towers once stood. Built in 1699, it miraculously withstood the catastrophic collapse of the towers on September 11th and became a haven for volunteers and workers in the days and months following the attack.
The inside of the chapel, which is open to the public, now serves as a tribute to those who came from all over the world to assist. (click on the photos in the galleries for descriptions)
The world reaches out to help
I had no idea that so many memorials had been created. As we walked our guide described how the people of New York, the USA and countries all over the world came to Ground Zero and worked hand in hand. A feeling of hope and being witness to the good of humanity began to wash over me and replace some of the nausea at the thought of being a curious tourist.
September 11 Memorial Reflecting Pools
The National September 11 Memorial’s reflecting pools sit in the exact footprints of the former Twin Towers. From the top of the pools a steady stream of water flows in a 30 foot drop.
Merging in a mass at the bottom of the pool, the water then flows into an unseen abyss. The symbolism was not lost on me. I felt as if I stood on a most sacred spot while I swallowed the lump that caught in my throat.
Bronze panels border the pool with the names of all of those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and in the World Trade Center car bombing in 1993.
One World Trade Center
In the northwest corner of the site sits the the new One World Trade Center. Currently the tallest building in the Western hemisphere the building’s total height of 1776 feet is a symbolic reference to to the year of American independence.
The observation decks will match the heights of the destroyed buildings. Built with precautionary measures such as 200 foot high blast resistant base and one meter thick concrete casing around all elevators, stairwells and communication systems, it towers triumphantly above what was once Ground Zero.
Standing gazing up at the gigantic rebirth of a building the ‘Survivor tree’ is in full bloom. The only tree to have somehow lived through the disastrous collapse of skyscrapers all around it.
National September 11 Memorial Museum
There are not adequate words to describe the New York’s Memorial Museum. The building resembles a toppled tower in design. The sloping ramp toward the entrance leads to an ever descending underground display.
In the most sensitive areas photographs are prohibited. Although thousands of people were with us that day the entire building was hushed. Respect exuded from every inch.
What do the people of NYC say?
I spoke to several New Yorkers during our time in their city about the memorial. Many said they could not bring themselves to go there, even all these years later. Understandably so I thought.
For those of us who couldn’t pull our eyes away from the television on September 11, 2001 or for weeks following, the 9/11 Memorials offer a reverent way to honor those who lost their lives. To those who survived, who helped strangers, who endured; I left your beautiful city overwhelmed at your spirit and bravery.
Was it morbid curiosity that brought me to the September 11 Memorial now beautifully covering the smoking mayhem that was once Ground Zero? I truly can not with a clear conscience rule it out.
I left filled with compassion, respect, awe and hope for the people of New York. May my heart be full of gratitude rather than impatience at the next airport security line.
What were you doing the morning of September 11, 2001?
We were guests of Walks with New York but all opinions shared are my own.