The National 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center Site
You think you're prepared for the National 9/11 Memorial, which has been open to the public for a couple of weeks now at the World Trade Center site: you've seen the photographs and videos, you've read the descriptions and accounts, you've steeled yourself emotionally. But you're not prepared… not really. Or, at least, that how we felt when we went to the 9/11 Memorial Plaza last week. Because even though we knew what was coming, it was all a bit overwhelming, both the tremendous size of the waterfalls where the Twin Towers once stood, and all of those names, inscribed in bronze, 2,983 of them, going on and on and on. It's an emotional experience, to say the least.
That's not to suggest you should avoid the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site; in fact the opposite is true. Based on one afternoon's visit, we think Michael Arad's design for the 9/11 Memorial Plaza, with its waterfalls and pools, plazas and groves of Swamp White Oaks, does an excellent job of offering visitors the opportunity for somber reflection–whether upon a single, specific person (there are electronic as well as printed name-locator maps available) or about the attacks, and the victims, as a whole–without the place feeling too morbid, or like a cemetery. What really hit us hardest was how massive these waterfalls are (they are, in fact, the largest man-made waterfalls in the country)… and, so, of course how big the buildings once were.
The Swamp White Oaks need to grow a bit, to make the 9/11 Memorial Plaza feel less windswept, and it helps neither the aesthetics nor the atmosphere that the whole thing is surrounded by active construction sites though, thankfully, the white-noise of the waterfalls gives the plaza an oasis-like quality. That said, the 9/11 Memorial is both an engineering marvel as well as something of a design success, encompassing as it does (and must) everything about that day, both here at the World Trade Center as well as across the nation.
As far as the logistics of visiting the 9/11 Memorial, (the National 9/11 Museum won't be open until September of 2012, though its glass atrium is already in place), the meandering entry through the site's multiple ticket-checkpoints and bag-and-body-scanner station is about what you'd expect. Onn the afternoon we went, it was briskly and professionally managed. One more important note: you must reserve your visitor passes online before arriving at the site, and spaces are filling up fast. If you plan on visiting, we suggest you go before it gets too cold and wintry and, potentially, too bleak.
The National 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site details
The 9/11 Memorial is located at the World Trade Center, and the entrance is at the southern end of the site, on the corner of Albany and Greenwich Streets. From now through January 8, 2012, the 9/11 Memorial is open during the week from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and on the weekend it opens at 9:00 a.m. From January 9 through March 10, 2012, the 9/11 Memorial hours are 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily. For lots more information and to reserve your visitor pass, please see the National 9/11 Memorial website, here.