by Karli Petrovic
From turning leaves to fall fashion, the month of September has a reputation for bringing about change. But this September marks the 10-year anniversary of the life-changing tragedy Americans will never forget. After a decade of grieving, healing, and resilience, the National 9/11 Memorial is opening, marking a monumental change to the city - one that invokes a transformation at the revered site itself, and transforms the spaces left in the New York City skyline.
In the works since 2003, when the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation held an international design competition to select an image to represent the 2,976 people lost on September 11, 2001 and the six killed in the February 26, 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 9/11 Memorial opens for families of the victims on September 11, 2011. The City of New York will host its annual commemoration ceremony for the victims' families on that day- this time with President Obama and the First Lady in attendance, according to the White House. For Jeanne O'Neill and her husband Pete, who lost their 21-year-old son, Peter Jr., in the South Tower, the memorial is "a nice gesture for what they're trying to do." The O'Neills attend the remembrance ceremonies at Ground Zero yearly, and although O'Neill says the memorial won't bring closure in itself, she thinks it serves as a reminder. "It puts it in perspective for those who weren't directly involved."
On September 12, the memorial opens publicly to those who have secured an advance visitor pass through the online reservation system. Visitors who wish to see the memorial in the immediate future must also reserve a time slot online. Once at the memorial, visitors will see the visions of architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker come to life. Arad's idea emerged from a thought he had right after the attacks that involved tearing the Hudson River open to allow the water to flow down into two voids. "My hope is that we are building the equivalent of a moment of silence, a quiet place to reflect and for people to come together," says Arad. "It's about letting that quiet, respectful moment occur. It should be very personal."
Expanded over about 8 acres of the 16-acre site, the memorial includes two acre-sized square reflecting pools, featuring North America's largest manmade waterfalls cascading down the eight sides of the pools. In the spaces the towers previously occupied, there's a cleared space for gathering and special ceremonies called the "Memorial Grove," and over 400 swamp white oaks including the "Survivor Tree," a callery pear nursed back to health following the attacks.
The 2,982 names of the victims are etched on bronze, stencil-cut parapets lining the outer walls of the reflecting pools. The stencil-cut design allows daytime visitors to view the waterfalls through the inscriptions and for light to shine through at night. The design, chosen from 5,201 entries from 63 countries, organizes the names according to direct relationships between spouses, relatives, colleagues, and friends as well as by affiliation or agency. Names of victims from World Trade Center North, Flight 11, and February 26, 1993 line the north pool, while the south pool houses the names of victims from World Trade Center South, first responders, flights 175, 177, and 93, and the Pentagon. Visitors interested in locating a particular name can find the name's "address" on the official website, an N or S followed by a number 1-76 to indicate a specific pool and panel, by using a smartphone application, or on a kiosk at the memorial site.
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The 9/11 Memorial is at the World Trade Center Complex. Visitors must enter at the Welcome Site at 1 Albany Street between Albany and Greenwich Streets. Hours are Monday-Friday from 10am-8pm, on weekends and holidays from 9am-8pm until January 8. From January 9-March 10, the memorial will be open from 10am-6pm Monday-Sunday. The last entries are ushered in an hour before closing. For more information, visit 911memorial.org.