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  • Writer's pictureMark Vogel

A Solemn Reflection: My Visit to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City

New York City


The 9/11 Memorial in New York City
The 9/11 Memorial in New York City

On Friday, September 7th, 2001, I found myself in lower Manhattan, taking care of some business. That day, I had the opportunity to stroll through the lower-level concourse of the World Trade Center complex. As a child, I had been to the Observation Deck of the World Trade Center, but this was my first time spending any significant time in the lower concourse.


I remember thinking it would be nice to return when I wasn't in such a hurry, perhaps to explore the retail stores or to enjoy a coffee. Little did I know that just four days later, on September 11th, the largest terrorist attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor would occur, forever changing the skyline of New York City and leaving the World Trade Center buildings in ruins and numerous families in mourning.





“On Friday, September 7th, 2001, I found myself in lower Manhattan, taking care of some business. That day, I had the opportunity to stroll through the lower-level concourse of the World Trade Center complex.... Little did I know that just four days later, on September 11th, the largest terrorist attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor would occur, forever changing the skyline of New York City and leaving the World Trade Center buildings in ruins and numerous families in mourning.”

A picture from my parent’s photo albums of the Twin Towers in 1971 before both were completed. Photo credit: Murray Vogel
A picture from my parent’s photo albums of the Twin Towers in 1971 before both were completed. Photo credit: Murray Vogel

The World Trade Center complex in New York City, which included the iconic Twin Towers, was constructed over a period of several years. The groundbreaking for the project took place on August 5, 1966. The Twin Towers, officially known as One World Trade Center (the North Tower) and Two World Trade Center (the South Tower), were completed at different times.

 

The North Tower (One World Trade Center) was completed and opened on December 15, 1970. It became the tallest building in the world at the time of its completion. The South Tower (Two World Trade Center) was completed and opened in January 1972. My parent’s photo albums have pictures of the towers in 1971 before both towers were completed.


A picture from my parent’s photo albums of the Twin Towers in 1971 before both were completed. Photo credit: Murray Vogel
A picture from my parent’s photo albums of the Twin Towers in 1971 before both were completed. Photo credit: Murray Vogel

The entire World Trade Center complex continued to develop over the following years, with additional buildings and structures being added. The complex became a prominent feature of the New York City skyline and a significant center of economic activity until it was tragically destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

 

A Brief History of the Attack

 

The events of September 11, 2001, are etched in the global collective memory. On that fateful morning, 19 terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes. Two of these planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were flown into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center, respectively. This attack resulted in the collapse of both towers within hours, causing massive destruction and loss of life. Nearly 3,000 people were killed, and over 6,000 others were injured. The attack not only claimed the lives of those in the towers but also firefighters, police officers, and other first responders who bravely rushed to the scene.

 

The Memorial: A Tribute to Resilience and Remembrance

 

Adjacent to the new World Trade Center building is the 9/11 Memorial, a somber tribute to the victims and a stark reminder of that day's events. Officially opened on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the attacks, the memorial occupies approximately half of the 16-acre World Trade Center site.


One World Trade Center next to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City
One World Trade Center next to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City

The Memorial Design

 

The design of the 9/11 Memorial, titled "Reflecting Absence," was created by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker. Their design was selected from over 5,000 submissions in an international competition. The concept behind "Reflecting Absence" is to symbolize the void left by the tragedy, both physically and emotionally, through the twin reflecting pools.

 

 

The memorial's most striking features are the twin reflecting pools, each nearly an acre in size and set within the footprints of the original Twin Towers. These pools are the largest man-made waterfalls in North America. Around the edges of the pools are bronze panels inscribed with the names of every person who died in the 2001 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

 

Names Arrangement

 

The arrangement of the names around the twin pools is more than just alphabetical. The "meaningful adjacencies" concept was used, where requests from families for specific names to be placed next to each other were honored. This approach reflects personal relationships and bonds that were formed in life, adding a deeper layer of personal meaning to the memorial.


One World Trade Center next to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City
One World Trade Center next to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City

Survivor Tree

 

The surrounding plaza is a contemplative space filled with more than 400 swamp white oak trees, symbolizing resilience and renewal. Among these trees is the "Survivor Tree," a Callery pear tree that was recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center site, nursed back to health, and replanted at the memorial site in 2010. Each year, seedlings from the Survivor Tree are distributed to communities that have suffered from tragedy, in a gesture of solidarity and healing. Its presence serves as a living reminder of resilience, survival, and rebirth.

 

9/11 Memorial Glade

 

The 9/11 Memorial Glade, dedicated on May 30, 2019, honors the ongoing suffering of thousands of people who have developed health conditions related to the 9/11 attacks. This includes rescue and recovery workers, survivors, and residents who have suffered from related illnesses. The Glade's design features a pathway flanked by six large, monolithic stones that have been inlaid with World Trade Center steel, symbolizing strength and resilience.

 

What Visitors Can Expect

 

When you visit the 9/11 Memorial, expect a powerful and emotional experience. You can walk around the twin reflecting pools and read the names of the victims, take a moment of silence, or simply reflect on the events and their global impact. The atmosphere is one of quiet reflection, a stark contrast to the bustling city that surrounds it.

 

9/11 Memorial Museum

 

Adjacent to the memorial is the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which houses artifacts, photographs, and multimedia displays. The museum's collection includes over 70,000 artifacts related to the events of 9/11, including personal items, photographs, and remnants from the site. The museum also features interactive exhibits, narratives, and oral histories that provide in-depth insight into the events, the aftermath, and the global impact of 9/11. It's an educational, albeit heart-wrenching, journey through one of the most significant events in recent history.

 

Accessibility and Visitor Services

 

The Memorial is designed to be accessible to all visitors, with various services available for those with disabilities. Audio guides, including ones with American Sign Language and descriptive narration, are available. The site also has staff members who are trained to assist visitors with specific needs.

 

Annual Commemoration


Each year on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City hosts a special commemorative event to honor and remember the nearly 3,000 people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and the six people killed in the World Trade Center bombing on February 26, 1993. This annual event is deeply significant and is marked by several solemn and meaningful traditions.

 

Moment of Silence and Reading of Names

 

One of the most poignant parts of the ceremony is the reading of the names of the victims. Family members and loved ones of those who died in the attacks gather to read aloud the names of the deceased. This act of personal remembrance adds a deeply human element to the ceremony, emphasizing the individual lives lost.

 

The ceremony traditionally includes six moments of silence, observed at the exact times when each of the World Trade Center towers was struck and fell, and the moments when the Pentagon was attacked, and Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania. These moments of silence offer a time for reflection and remembrance.

 

Tribute in Light

 

The "Tribute in Light" is an art installation that is not part of the permanent memorial but has become an integral part of the annual remembrance. It consists of two beams of light projected into the sky in the footprint of the Twin Towers. Visible for miles, these beams of light serve as a powerful symbol of the continuing impact of the attacks and a tribute to the lives lost. The lights are turned on at dusk on September 11th and fade away at dawn the next day.

 

Participation of Public Officials

 

The ceremony often includes the participation of the Mayor of New York City, the Governor of New York, and sometimes the President of the United States, along with other dignitaries. Their presence and speeches serve to underscore the national significance of the tragedy and the collective mourning and remembrance.

 

Public Observance

 

While the reading of the names is primarily for the families of the victims, the public is invited to observe the ceremony. Many gather around the Memorial plaza, while others participate in various community events, vigils, and services across the city and the nation.

 

Educational and Commemorative Events

 

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum often hosts and coordinates educational events, special exhibitions, and public programming around the anniversary. These events aim to educate the public about the impact of the attacks and to explore themes related to grief, loss, resilience, and recovery.

 

Reflection and Remembrance

 

The anniversary of the attacks is a time for reflection not only for New Yorkers but for people across the United States and around the world. It is a day to remember the lives lost, the bravery of the first responders, and the resilience of communities affected by the attacks.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is not just about remembering a tragic day; it's about understanding the resilience of the human spirit and the unbreakable resolve of a city and nation that faced unimaginable horror. As a travel blogger, I've visited many places, but few have left an imprint on my heart and mind as deeply as this memorial.

 

For anyone planning a visit to New York City, I highly recommend setting aside time for the 9/11 Memorial. It's not only a poignant tribute to those we lost but also a powerful reminder of our capacity for strength, unity, and renewal in the face of adversity.


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