The date of 9/11 is indelibly fixed in the memory of just about everyone – and no visit to New York is complete now without seeing the impressive and very moving Memorial which is nearing completion on the site of the World Trade Centre.
As you approach through the narrow streets of the business area, the memories flood back of those live TV pictures of the huge ash clouds billowing between the office blocks – with ash-covered survivors fleeing for their lives as the brave fire and rescue workers headed the other way. From the same streets today, you get the first view of the new “Freedom Tower” (officially number 1 World Trade Centre) nearing completion. As you get closer, you can see the stylish, glazed design – a contrast with the solid rectangles of its ill-fated predecessor towers. It stands at the northern edge of the 16-acre site and will rise to 1,766 feet to stand proudly as the tallest building in the USA. Its reflective walls are designed to show off the adjoining buildings against the blue sky.
The site of the former buildings is now a memorial park and the footprints of the twin towers are now two huge pools, with 30-foot waterfalls which cascade into a central void. On the parapets around the pools are the names of the 2,983 men, women and children from 90 nations who perished in the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania – including 400 who were ‘first responders’ from the city fire department. Surrounding the pools are extensive lawns and oak trees including one ‘survivor tree’ which was found in the wreckage of Ground Zero and nursed back to health by a city park.
The memorial park has been open to visitors for some months now, as the construction work continues, and it is now advisable to obtain tickets in advance since admission numbers are carefully controlled. As we went quietly around the park with the continuous flow of visitors, it was noticeable that they came from every race, creed, colour and age group.There is a temporary museum nearby which evocatively tells the story of the events of 9/11 – but between the pools, a new steel and glass pavilion is being prepared to house the exhibition.
It has taken 11 years to reach this stage with an outcome which accommodates the wishes of the families of all those who lost their lives, as well as the interests of the property landlords and also to agree all the architectural and financial issues. But the result is a hugely impressive, tasteful and appropriate Memorial to one of the greatest tragedies of our lifetime.