I think about September 11, 2001 everyday. That is because I work near where the World Trade Center Towers use to stand. I am a witness to the progress and changes being made everyday. I also bear witness every anniversary to the lives lost, as I sit at my desk, I can hear the names of the dead being read aloud from the street below. It is a hollow moment in time every year as I pause to mourn for those who I didn’t know and watch as construction begins to restore both a monument and future for us all.
Even though the 9/11 museum is still under construction, the remembrance pools are open and operating. All visitors need a pass which is free and can be found in person at the visitor’s center or online. I suggest pre-booking and printing the pass online. It saves you a lot of unnecessary walking. Also be prepared to show I.D. with the same name you put on this pass. There will also be airport-like security, that is to say slow, crowded, hot, and you will have to empty everything in your pockets, jackets off, etc. So be prepared and carry as little as possible. There is also no food or beverages allowed and garbage cans are in the security area for those who will need it. Keep in mind that this is still relevantly new and that there is timed entry, another good reason to book online, to avoid any additional waiting. There will be plenty all on its own. Try to go during the week and avoid peak times like Saturday afternoons if you can.
I, myself, was a bit naïve about this process. I knew all of the above, but still thought it would be a relatively easy process. I thought wrong. There is a lot of active construction so that accounts for a lot of walking out of the way and then there is just poor planning. Maybe the site shouldn’t be open so soon. I am not sure. But it was a mess. I was so disappointed. After all the aggravation it took to get in, I thought ok I am in finally. I took out my camera and was all set to take in what I was looking at.
I walked over to the South Pool, in the footsteps of the South Tower, and walked around backwards. I only found that out afterwards because God forbid there is a sign telling you where to start. On the metal panels that surround the pools are the names of those who died and if you had started at the correct place it went like this: Flight 175, Pentagon, Flight 77, Flight 93, and First Responders. Included of course are also the people that worked in that building. The most powerful names for me were the women’s names I saw that had “and unborn child” after it. I had never thought about that. It made me sick to my stomach. Some families had to lose someone they had never even met.
Then I walked towards the North Pool. There, there were the names of the people that worked in World Trade Center Tower 1, Flight 11, and those who died from the attack on February 26, 1993. I didn’t know that the victims from 1993 would be included. I thought that was a very nice touch.
Here is where things went wrong. Today was a windy day and while the water was coming up a bit while I was near the South Pool I was sentimental about it. I thought to myself, wow the drops of water feels like tears dropping from the heavens. I made myself choke up a bit. Then I saw someone had left a rose near a name and was taking a picture of it. It reminded me a lot of what I had seen at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., that kind of solemn peacefulness.
As I approached the North Pool I noticed there wasn’t anyone at this pool and the other one was packed. For some reason I diluted myself into thinking that people just hadn’t gotten to this one yet. Nope that wasn’t the reason. But I was on a mission. This was the pool I was really here to see. There was a close friend of my family’s name on this pool and I was there to see it, capture it, and pay my respects. It is a name I listen for every year. Even though I didn’t know this person particularly well, my family did, people I love did, and it makes the situation even more real. But this was not to be my fate.
There was a logical reason why no one else was at this pool and that was because they did not want to drown! I kid you not! The wind was picking up the water so much, despite turning my back and shoving my camera down my shirt as fast as I could we were both soaking wet. I looked as though I had just come out of the shower. Since it was so nice out today I didn’t have a jacket on. Apparently I needed a poncho and that was not in the brochure I was handed on my walk in. The winds and water were so severe I could not look at more than about three names and then had to literally run to get away back towards the South Pool. I looked like a lunatic on fire. It figures that the part I was most into would end up like this.
I am so saddened that many families coming here to honor their own will face many days like this. The other major problem here is that the metal is very, very reflective and hard to see. Even with your sunglasses on and the flash off on your camera, there will be some images you will be simply won’t be able to get clearly. Especially, after it is soaking wet. I also hear that the water in the pools is to remain on permanently as a tribute, sort of like the eternal flame on J.F.K.’s grave. If you have tickets on a day like that I suggest really water proofing your equipment and yourself.
It is such a shame that something meant to be so beautiful and honor so many people was disappointing. I would like to say that when the museum finally opens (no date has been finalized) and the construction is over, that the situation will improve but I am not so sure. What I saw today was typical bureaucracy at its best and maybe a rush to a plan that wasn’t. I had really hoped for more. My only prayer now is that the families and friends of the victims of 9/11 and 1993 find this tribute appropriate and comforting.
For the National 9/11 Memorial: