Today arrived, and a post that I’d been thinking about for a while more or less demanded to be written.
On my recent visit to New York, hubby and I went to the World Trade Center Memorial. I have a confession to make here. It wasn’t on my ‘to-do’ list. I don’t mean that I DIDN’T want to visit; it was just that hubby was far more keen than I was. So off we went.
I’m glad we did. It was one of the most moving places I’ve ever been to. It was also a strange experience. Let me try to explain why.
The Memorial is right in the midst of what is still a construction site. Cranes rise all around, the surrounding streets are dusty, there are hoardings everyhere. It’s a veritable maze to get to the entrance. Mad New York traffic passes by on all sides. But…once you are in there, it seems silent. Visitors are speaking quietly. The waterfalls that have been created in the footprints of the old towers roar a little, but not enough to drown out NYC, surely? And yet – it is wonderfully peaceful. No outside noise seems to get in.
In the footprint of each tower sits a waterfall and reflecting pool. The pools are each nearly an acre in size, and the waterfalls that cascade into them are the largest manmade ones in North America. We walked right round both pools, where the names of everyone who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks are carved into bronze panels. Memorial Plaza itself is covered with beautiful swamp white oak trees. And rising majestically beside all this: the new towers. One World Trade Center, once it’s 408-foot-tall spire is complete, will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
(If you want to know more about the Memorial, click here).
I said moving, yet strange. I couldn’t imagine, as I stood there, what it must have been like that day, or afterwards. I didn’t know anyone who died in the attacks, or in London in 2005, or Boston this year. This is not a comment piece on the state of the world, the rights and wrongs of the West’s relationship with the Middle East, or anything like that. I just wanted to describe my visit, and how it made me feel.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a lump in my throat, for the huge loss of life. I also felt proud to belong to a people who could pull together in the aftermath: to rescue people, rebuild lives, and build something new – in every sense. Why is it that humankind can do such terrible things, and yet have the courage and compassion people showed that day, and every day? I guess if someone had the answer to that, these things would no longer happen.
As I craned my neck to gaze up at the new towers, they seemed like a defiant phoenix rising from the ashes. You achieved nothing, they seemed to say. Except for stupid, senseless loss of life. We are still here. We remember our dead. We build something more beautiful where destruction was.
The 9/11 Memorial is one of the most inspiring places I’ve been to.
This post is dedicated to all those who have lost their lives in terror attacks around the world.
Note (March 2014): this place has been on my mind again recently, as I’m doing a Creative Writing course assignment on it. That’s why I’ve featured this post on Julie Valerie’s blog hop.