I hope you had the opportunity to watch the Discovery Channel’s series “Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero” the past two Thursdays. “Very impressive” is good grammar, but an understatement. “Wow!” and “Awe inspiring” are closer.
None of us who were over seven or eight years old on September 11, 2001 will ever forget the attacks on America. I watched the images on the news, horrified that anyone could be so overwhelmed with hatred and evil to plan such an attack. We flew the flag at our house for months. We prayed that survivors would be found, for the injured, for the families. But gradually I got back to my life. I felt some satisfaction and closure when Usama bin Laden was killed. But the emotion of 10 years ago had faded.
Not so for those who live near the World Trade Center site, the 200,000 commuters who pass through the subway station under the site every day, and certainly not for the families who lost someone on 9/11. It was amazing to find out how many family members worked in the rescue and clean-up phases or are working at the construction site now. Working to have the plaza and museum finished by the tenth anniversary was a mission for them and the other workers.
I was moved and amazed by the multitude of ways that symbolism has been built into the WTC site. Had I been one of the designers, I would have made sure the memorial and museum were striking and memorable. And they are:
* two lower level columns from the original towers are preserved in the museum.
* the names of all 2983 victims from the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, all four airplanes, first responders and those who died in the 1993 WTC bombing are engraved in bronze surrounding the memorial pools.
* the pools, entitled “Reflecting Absence”, occupy the exact footprints of the two original towers.
But the designers went beyond the obvious. Families of the victims were asked if they wanted the name of their loved one next to any other name. Twelve hundred families responded, resulting in the names of an engaged couple and various groups of friends appearing together. This will be a great comfort to their families, although to the rest of us the name placement will look random. The 400 trees planted around the memorial could have been acquired anywhere, but came from New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania. And a pear tree that was pulled from the rubble was restored to health and replanted at the site.
The architects put a great deal of thought into the buildings too. Tower One, the “Freedom Tower”, will be as tall as the original towers and its façade had features that mimic the originals. Tower Two has an angled top; following the plane of the angle down to ground level, you reach the memorial. You will be able to see it point to the memorial from miles away. The site designer moved this building so that every year on 9/11, a shaft of sunlight will strike the memorial at 8:46 am – the time the first plane hit the north tower. Tower Four will have mirrored glass and is in a position to reflect the museum and memorial.
The designers, architects, iron workers, plumbers, museum workers, arborists and other workers predominantly live in the New York area, so this is exceptionally personal for them. But 9/11 was an attack on all of America and our way of life. I will never forget. But the dedication of the victims’ families and of those involved in rebuilding the World Trade Center make me ashamed that I have not given more to help the victims’ families and done more to honor those who died.
If you missed the Discovery Channel series and you get the Science Channel, you can see it on Sunday, 9/11 5-11 pm (E/P). Photos of the WTC site and video clips from the series can also be viewed at http://dsc.discovery.com.