This year marks the sixteenth anniversary of 9/11. It is hard to believe so many years have gone by since that fateful day. I know exactly where I was, and what I was doing, when life as we knew it suddenly changed forever.
This summer I had the chance to visit New York City. I had not been to the 9/11 Memorial, so I wanted to spend some time there. I confess that I was unprepared for my reaction. It was a beautiful sunny day, yet the atmosphere upon entering the plaza was sombre. It was quite emotional, overwhelming, and yet beautiful. So beautiful.
All of the nearly three-thousand names of those who were senselessly taken from us in those attacks are engraved along the rim of the memorial. I was struck … with sadness. I prayed for them, for us, for everyone.
The tree lined memorial pools are beautiful and serene. I walked ever so slowly around them, needing to run my fingers over the names. So many names.
I couldn’t speak. I kept my sunglasses on, except to continually wipe my eyes. It was all too much.
Seeing the roses broke my heart. I thought it was touching how each person is remembered on their birthday. Yet the tears flowed.
It was such an experience. I felt the weight of so many sad stories. The pools, though, were so beautiful. I cannot explain it but the continually flowing water was so healing to listen to and to see.
Then we met a volunteer. I was still choked up and couldn’t really talk, but I listened. I listened as he told us the amazing story of the “Survivor Tree”. This pear tree (or part of it, actually), was found at Ground Zero in October 2001. It was in a terrible state and severely damaged, but remarkably it showed signs of life. It was rehabilitated for nine years before being brought back here to the Memorial plaza. The volunteer pointed out to us how you could see the new limbs extending from the damaged stumps. This tree, in so many ways, represents the determination of a survivor: to beat the odds and then to even go beyond that by thriving.
I was emotionally drained. But what I was struck by was that over the course of the 24 hours I had been in New York City, this was yet another experience of a New Yorker being kind, warm and friendly to me. It filled me with pride to be a New Yorker myself, even though I’m not from NYC. In these times of uncertainty, it is heartwarming to see genuine kindness in so many people.
I hope that if you have the chance to visit New York City that you will make the time to visit this beautiful memorial and to pay tribute to all those innocent victims and national heroes. You can find more information about the Memorial here. The memorial is located at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan at 180 Greenwich St. I haven’t mentioned it in this post, but there is also a museum at this site.
May we never forget.