My first visit was in October 2006, when it was little more than a big hole in the ground with just the beginnings of the new buildings and the memorial under construction. Things have changed quite a bit since I was there 7 years ago, most notably the addition of the two pools of water that have been constructed in the footprints of the Twin Towers that collapsed on that memorable day.
This time around, there is a lot more to see. One large tower already reaches high into the sky.
The streets approaching the memorial site are filled with the sights and sounds of new construction.
The closer you get, the more police officers and security personnel you see.
The entrance to the site is located in the Tribute Centre, which is full of exhibits honouring the victims, as well as describing the events of that day and the worldwide response that followed. There are artifacts from that day, pieces of twisted steel and damaged equipment used by the first responders and the touching stories to go with them.
One room consists of three full walls of the photos of the victims. I found these pictures especially hard to look at. Weddings, graduations, families smiling together, thousands of happy faces whose lives were cut short. Luckily, there are several boxes of Kleenex on hand in this room!
After you walk through the various rooms of the Tribute Centre, you follow along through corridors and pathways and various security checkpoints and around the block to the actual Memorial, which opened on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, September 11, 2011. Each of the North and South Pools are surrounded by bronze panels on which the names of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, as well as the six people who died when bombs went off in the underground parking garage of the WTC on February 26, 1993.
One of those names belongs to Sara Elizabeth Low, a flight attendant on Flight 11, the plane that crashed into the North Tower, and a high school friend of a lovely artist I met at PLAY last year, Mindy Lacefield. It's true what they say - in life and in death, we are all connected.
As soon as I saw the names, I wanted to create a rubbing of one of them. I knew I had a pen in my purse and thought I probably had a scrap piece of paper I could use but I approached one of the many volunteers on the site to confirm that it would be okay if I did that. She told me it would not be a problem and then asked if I had any materials to do it. She then opened a nearby Rubbermaid container and pulled out a long piece of thick paper and a large black wax crayon and offered them to me. I made a rubbing of the first name I had touched on the memorial, that of Edward Thomas Strauss.
I put the rubbing in my journal, along with a tribute to Eddie that I found here.
We walked around each of the pools, looking at the names, silently mourning and honouring the dead. In spite of the sounds of construction all around, it is a peaceful place. There are dozens of trees creating a canopy overhead. Here and there, a white rose is tucked into a name - something they do to commemorate the birth dates of the victims.
The sound of the water flowing into the pools is soothing. The individual streams of water at the top, representing the individual victims, flow together into the pool, representing their shared destiny.
Some of the panels are covered in spray and people have drawn words and images in the condensation.
I was glad we went to see the memorial on this trip. I plan to visit each time I go to New York. It seems the least I can do to honour the victims.
If you'd like to learn more, you will find the website for the Tribute Centre here.