The two footprints where the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers once stood now hold twin, almost one acre sized square reflecting pools surrounded by cascading 30 foot waterfalls. The names of each of the 2,983 people who died in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the truck bomb at the Word Trade Center on February 26, 1993 are inscribed on bronze panels that surround the waterfalls.
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum occupies about half of the sixteen acre World Trade Center site and includes a plaza that, when fully planted, will be home to not only 442 swamp white oak trees, but also the so-called “Survivor Tree,” a callery pear that miraculously survived the attacks, was plucked from the wreckage and nursed back to health at a nursery in the Bronx.
Architect Michael Arad, now 42, won the open international competition to design the memorial in 2004, beating out 5,200 other entries. In a recent interview with the AP at the memorial site, Arad called the reflecting pools “voids” meant to evoke the lives lost in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. He calls his design “Reflecting Absence.”
“These voids that you see behind me — as you approach them as a pedestrian they’re not readily visible,” he said. “And it’s really only when you’re a few feet away from them that all of a sudden the ground opens up in front of you and you see this enormous expanse, these voids which are ringed with these waterfalls and the reflecting pool below them.”
The memorial stands as a respite — a place for deep reflection and remembrance, but also for hope and renewal.
“The falls are just what you would hope. They create a beautiful whisper, a sound envelope that drowns out the sound of the city as you’re standing in front of the names,” said National September 11 Memorial & Museum President Joseph Daniels on NY1.
The opening of the World Trade Center site, which has been closed to the public for the past decade, cloaked in construction fencing, has been a long time coming and is not without its share of controversy, including construction delays, brawls over budgets and politics and much discussion about how to group the names of the victims.
But as Arad told the AP, the core of his original plan remains.
“We’ve gone through an eight yearlong editing process of sort of parsing it down,” he said in an interview in the Manhattan offices of Handel Architects. “But I didn’t end up with a whole other unintended direction to this. Is it exactly as it was eight years ago? No. But is it the same in nature? Yes.”
After terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people and toppled two 110-story skyscrapers, some New Yorkers said the entire 16-acre trade center site should be a memorial or a park. Others said the towers should be rebuilt just as they were before.
In the end, Daniel Libeskind’s master plan set aside eight acres — half the site — for a memorial.
The memorial opens — first to families of the victims in a dedication ceremony this Sunday, the 10th anniversary of 9/11 — and then to the public on Monday. But it is by no means finished. Time and space for quiet reflection are not in the offing. The museum part of the project, still under construction, is now scheduled to open next year on the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. It will display portraits of the victims and house artifacts from the terror attacks as well as interactive exhibits.
More than 300,000 people from all 50 states and 65 countries already have reserved tickets — which are free — but need to be booked online at 911memorial.org.
For a sneak preview, take a look at this slideshow of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum:
All photos and renderings courtesy of National September 11 Memorial & Museum