Visiting Ground Zero – My Tale of Visiting the 9/11 Memorial
The National September 11th Memorial and Museum, (or 9/11 Memorial or World Trade Center Memorial – people call it many names) is the memorial in the place where the World Trade Center towers stood and feel during the attack on the USA on September, 11, 2001.
I remember the morning the World Trade Center buildings were attacked. Pretty much everyone alive in the USA that day does. But I never knew anyone directly effected by it. I knew friends of friends of families of friends, and I had never visited the towers before that day, and until recently had never visited the site since 9/11.
And a while back, I mistakenly misidentified a photo for this memorial in a guest post. I got many comments on it, and quickly fixed the misidentified photo, but I decided that day that the next time I visit New York City I was going to visit the 9/11 Memorial. To experience it, learn more about it, and because this is now an important part of my country’s history.
In March (2014) I finally had my chance to visit the 9/11 Memorial. I was in New York City for a conference and to visit a friend, I’ll call N. N was nice enough to take me down to the memorial during our day to hang out, and we spent a good few hours that afternoon at the 9/11 Memorial.
I didn’t know what to expect to see or feel when we headed down to the memorial. But I was solemnly amazed by it. As you enter the queue to get in, you feel the importance of this place. Everyone is asked to donate what you can afford, but no one is turned away for lack of money, nor are they made to feel guilty about it.
Note: Although it is free to enter the memorial, the museum (which wasn’t open to the public yet during my visit) does cost, Find out all the up-to-date info at 9/11Memorial.org.
You will pass through multiple checkpoints when going inside so remember to pack light, and not pack anything illegal/not allowed. Cameras are allowed, and the security is quicker and the staff are very friendly. Once inside, you enter a large park-style area where the memorial and museum are located. Some people were sitting around to lunch, some to remember, and some just to learn. It was weird feeling being there, because I felt like a 3rd party, like someone crashing a funeral. Maybe because I lived through this and know the importance of it, and felt like I should assume everyone else is there to mourn. Which I don’;t find is a bad feeling to have. Many people are their to mourn and you should be respectful of this.
It also felt like an honour to be there. Where the buildings once stood are now two reflecting pools (or I heard some people refer to them as Infinity Pools, because from the angle you can see they look like they are falling down into infinity). Surrounding the pools, are bronze panels, etched with the names of all those who died in the 2001, and their earlier 1993 attacks. The sheer size and amount of names adds to the sadness of what happened that day.
Although it is acceptable to photograph in the memorial, one should do so with respect and caution. Many people are visibly upset and may not want their photo taken. Although it is hard to photograph without anyone in the photo (due to the number of people at this site), it doesn’t take much effort to wait for people to move, or at least get them in the background where they are not easily identifiable. I did see people taking selfie style photos giving big thumbs up (obviously for being in New York, not for the tragedy) or doing those silly ‘jumping in the air’ photos, but I don’t recommend it. This isn’t that kind of place. Although no one stopped them or said anything, the few people doing this did get quite a few looks (even though they didn’t seem to notice).
But for the most part, people here are respectful to each other. While photographing, a family with two small children, both too young to remember the event (and possibly not even born yet) walked up next to me. They had brought their children to teach them about this event, and about our history. I was so taken with them, that (with permission from the parents and child) I took a photo of the girl looking out into the pool.
So many people, from so many different ages and background were here, together, getting along, that it made you want to simultaneously cry and love. You really got to see the true heart of humanity come together in the face of this tragedy.
N and I couldn’t stay long. It is a very emotional place, and although I could have stayed all day and just meditating on this event, we wanted to do something lighter now. Plus, since N and I both felt removed (like a 3rd party like I mentioned before), we started feeling like we were encroaching on other’s time.
And it’s just really hard being there.
As we were leaving, we stopped into the mini-museum (the full one wasn’t opened yet) and that turned out to be another learning experience. Pieces of the towers and articles found in the rubble were on display. Heart-tugging videos played in the back on 2 screens with footage of the towers and interviews from family who lost loved ones and survivors of the attack. A small crowd (that included us) quickly grew around these screens, unable to peel our eyes away from them. It was all I could do not to actually start crying.
It’s hard to put into words the actual feelings I had this day. And I can’t tell you what you will experience, because you will each have your own reaction. But this was mine. I am very glad I went, and would like to go again someday. I recommend visiting the 9/11 Memorial to anyone visiting New York.
About Dani Blanchette
I am a freelance travel and music photographer and creator of GoingNomadic.com.
I love music, food, and exploring cities without guidebooks. I’ve flown a helicopter, hitchhiked down the east coast USA, and once snuck into the back of a zoo (in Serbia) and pet a lion.
I am always up for an adventure, and sometimes I videotape them.