Earlier this month I spent a few days in New York and one of the things I wanted to do was see the new National September 11th Memorial at the World Trade Center site.
I have a few thoughts about it, but mostly just want to share some photos and a short video.
The permanent Museum on the World Trade Center site is not complete yet, there’s a temporary Museum next to a fire station on Liberty Street. I’m sure the people who set it up are well meaning but between the ratio of merchandise to museum pieces, the sort of sad state of the displays, and the laughing and carrying on at the front door, I really wish I did not go in there. That experience (and common sense) lead me to avoid the gift shop on West Street when I left the actual memorial site.
The experience of getting to the Memorial site was like boaring an aircraft (something which I hate). It is an active construction site both with buildings being erected at 150 Greenwich Street and 1 World Trade Center, the Museum itself, and the PATH station underground. And of course it is one of the most high profile sites in the world, so security is an understandable it regrettable concern.
We made reservations before leaving Providence and waited in line for about 15 minutes to be ID’d. We then went into another line and were sent around the block to go through metal detectors (empty pockets, belts off, but happily we got to keep our shoes). Then we went through another line and off to the site. It took all together a half hour, maybe more to get onto the site.
When we go to the Memorial I was trying pretty hard and somewhat unsuccessfully not to be thouroughly annoyed by the whole thing. We entered the site from the southwest approaching the footprint of the South Tower. People were milliing about, some solemn, some sad, but mostly it felt like one of the many steps on the New York tourist cicuit, Times Square, Top of the Rock, Statue of Liberty, World Trade Center”¦
I can’t say that I myself was completely funerial, and I’m not saying that everyone has to act a certain way, far be it from me to tell people how to deal with tragedy and how to act at a memorial. But it was jarring and inconguous in a way that I was not sure if it made me feel uncomfortable or not. Obviously, I was gawking and taking pictures just as much as anyone else.
As I was processing it all, I made my way to the edge of the South Tower Footprint. I made this little video to illustrate something important (you need the sound on to appreciate my point).
What did you hear? Water falling, that’s it. There were people right behind me talking about taking pictures and where they were going to go to eat later and any number of inane things, but as I stood on the edge of the footprint it all went away and I was alone. It seems designer Michael Arad did have this in miind when he designed the Memorial and it is very good he did. It allows the Memorial to change as time goes on the event receeds, but allows people to have thier own experience that they need to have when they go there. I think as the trees mature they will add to the ability for people to have their own private undisturbed moments at the Memorial.
That’s all for my commentary, I’ll just add that if you are in New York and thinking of going, you should. After going through the lines and security and being confronted by people seeming to enjoy themselves”¦ I was starting to wish I didn’t go. But after spending a half an hour or so there, I’m glad I did.