9/11 is one of those dates marked indelibly in memory, one of those dates when we immediately remember where we were and what we were doing when we got the word. Lev and I were drinking coffee and reading the newspaper when our daughter called. “Turn on the TV. A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center.” We immediately called our son in Dallas–a young pilot with American Airlines. Thank God he was at home. Only a few years earlier I had taken the younger grandson, then 6, to New York, and we went up to the observation deck–the only members of the extended family ever to do so. Now it was gone, erased from the New York skyline.
Last week a friend and I went downtown to the site. We were there four hours and could easily have stayed twice as long. We had signed up for a tour of the Memorial itself–two infinity pools, surrounded by oaks that mark that perimeter of the twin towers….
Surrounding the pools and their waterfalls–pools where you cannot see the bottom from any angle–are the names of the victims. Our guide told some of the most poignant stories and pointed out the markers for the those on the planes that crashed. Scattered white roses marked those with birthdays.
We paused at the Survivor Tree, the lone pear tree that survived 9/11 and blooms again at the site. Wreaths had been placed by the President of Bosnia and the British Legion.
We could never have understood the significance of the site had we not taken the tour. After a break for lunch, we toured the museum on our own. We quickly descended down five stories to bedrock, but we could have spent hours there. We will return. The extent of the destruction made a huge impact, huge steel beams twisted like paper from the impact and the fire.
Originally, we planned to go from the Museum to the new Whitney Museum, a mile or so north on the West Highway, but we were advised that it would be too long a day. We were glad that we didn’t try. Touring the Memorial and Museum was a deeply moving and emotional experience. We needed to go back to our hotel to reflect quietly on what we had seen and what we remembered of that day.
If you plan to visit, go to the 9/11 Museum site to buy timed tickets, for the lines are long. Numerous entry and tour options are available. We walked across the West Highway adjacent to the Memorial and ate lunch at a French brasserie, Beaubourg, facing the Hudson River. It was a lovely break in the day, with good food and great views of the Hudson, the Jersey shore and adjacent parkland. In good weather, the whole area invites exploration.