The National September 11 Memorial in New York City is still under construction, but my wife and I decided to head down there and look around earlier this week. We’re going down to Georgia this coming week for the holidays and a relative asked us to take some photos of the site for her. We’d been meaning to go, so that was a great opportunity for us to stop being lazy and get off our butts and head downtown.
When we got there, I was a little concerned that we wouldn’t be able to get in. There were signs posted in the surrounding streets that said that tickets were available online and in limited quantities at the 9/11 Memorial Site Preview office on Vessey Street between Church Street and Broadway, across the street from St. Paul’s Chapel. Luckily, when we got to the office, we were informed that there were free tickets from the 2:30 PM entry to the WTC site. It was about 2:05 PM at the time, so I guess they were passing out the extras that didn’t sell. I have no idea why the tickets were free, really, except that it probably had something to do with lack of demand at that time of day on a Thursday the week before Christmas. It seems as though you get a ticket that’s good for entry to the site only at a certain time. I assume they expect people to leave after a certain amount of time and the tickets being separated by an hour keeps the site from becoming too crowded.
After we got our tickets we had to walk down Church Street, which turns into Trinity Place, until we got to Thames Street, where we made a right. The entry to the site is at the corner of Albany and Greenwich Streets. Getting into the site is a long process. First, we had to show our tickets of course. Then, since there wasn’t much of a crowd, we walked past the back-and-forth roped off area for long lines and went straight to the line for security screening. While we were waiting, I joked that we were going to get free sexual assaults along with our free tickets and if we were suspicious (like most people are), maybe a free cavity search, MRI and X-Ray. Luckily, the airport style security screening went fairly quickly. The only interesting thing that happened was when one of the guards was complaining to her coworker that another guard never took a turn at the door directing people to the metal detector lines. I imagine the guard in question was avoiding that particular job because it was cold out that day.
The entire area of the National September 11 Memorial is sealed off from the rest of the city by security fences. After getting tickets, walking to the entry area, and then following the lines, by the time we actually walked into the site itself, we had almost gone all the way around it in a circle. It would be nice if at some point the site could be truly free and open, so people could walk through the area and look at the monuments, like any other monument in the country, but people are still so afraid of terrorism that it’s likely the site will stay walled off. Then, of course, there’s also the fact that the city wants to use it as a way to make money, charging an admission. To me, that seems borderline disrespectful, that the city wants to use a tragedy that caused the deaths of almost 3000 people and the injury of about 6000 more as an opportunity to make a buck. It also seems to defeat the purpose of building the memorial, which I assumed was meant to be a testament to the strength and power of the country, as well as a memorial for those who died in the terrorist attack. Instead, our testament to the strength of our country will remain hidden behind fences and barriers. It’s tough to say whether or not those barriers are necessary. On the one hand, it would be a symbolic victory for terrorists to strike the site again. On the other, the monuments in Washington DC don’t have fences and guards around them and they’re just fine.
During Winter, the memorial site is a pretty chilly place, both figuratively and literally. With no tall buildings in the area, the wind rips through the plaza non-stop. The reflecting pools are sunk down into the ground and the wind was getting caught down in the north pool, turning the water falling down the sides into a fine mist that blew across the plaza, adding to the chill. The leaves on the trees were brown and falling. The sky was overcast. Everything looked a little grey.
My wife and I went in different directions around the south reflecting pool. I took my time, taking photos, looking down into the hole that used to be a foundation, looking at some of the names on the railing that surrounded the pool. The only word I can think of to describe the mood of the place is that it was not depressing, but sort of subdued. But, it should be a little subdued. I don’t know that the place will ever be one where people go to picnic and laugh during my lifetime. Maybe. Maybe in 60 years, when the memories have faded and most of the people who were alive at the time have passed on.
Because of the construction going on all around the site, it was hard to appreciate the place for its architectural beauty. One World Trade Center isn’t even finished yet. The museum on the site hasn’t opened yet either. I remember reading that there was some delay due to money problems. I’m looking forward to going back again in a year or so, hopefully during the summer or spring. My wife was impressed by the reflecting pools, but she was mostly too cold to enjoy the trip like she wanted to. She wants to go back again, too, when it’s warmer. Maybe we’ll get lucky and get some more free tickets!