Thursday, March 01, 2012
40 Days of Lent: Day Nine
Two weekends ago I went with my sister and my mother to the 911 Memorial located at the former site of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center. I"m ashamed to say it is one of those sites in New York City that I usually forget about. I never think about going there until I hear someone else has been, at which point it inspires a literal slap to the forehead and the exclamation that I've got to get there.
For those that don't know: on the site where the Twin Towers formerly stood are now two in ground fountains where water pours along the walls before disappearing into square shaped holes in the ground. These fountains are framed by metal plaques that list the names of those who died that day. It recalls and was no doubt inspired by Maya Lin's outstanding Viet Nam Vet Memorial Wall in Washington DC. The memorial is peaceful, intelligent, contemplative, and beautiful.
What it is not, however, is sad. Perhaps this is just me. My mother cried, but my mother cries at junk mail and sentimental commercials. I was so awed by the beauty of the location and so thrilled with the idea of what it will be in years to come, when the restrictive fences are taken down, when the need for timed tickets is over. when the construction is complete and it is just a park that people can walk through at their whim the way Central Park is now, that I just didn't feel sad. I'm not callous, I'm not indifferent to the suffering of those who died that day or to the sorrow of the families they left behind, but I was so awestruck by the beauty around me that sadness was the furthest thing from my mind.
Almost ten years ago, my aunt and my mother came to New York City for St. Patrick's Day. We decided to head to Ground Zero, at that point only six months after the attacks on the Twin Towers, to see what we could see. The visit was a whim. We naively thought we'd be able to just walk up to the holes in the ground and pay our respects. No, you needed to have tickets to go on the platform that overlooked the construction and the tragically slow clean up process still going on at that late date. My Aunt Juleann tried to sweet talk a beat cop into letting us on the platform, not noticing his theatrical "oh, if there were only some way I could get you tickets" speech as he surreptitiously waved three tickets in his left hand poised at his waist. Up on the platform (my mom cried then, too) it looked like any construction site but you couldn't help but understand that this was actually a destruction site and that more likely than not, there were human remains in what was being dug up within the pit.
At the World Trade Center, the memorial park is so beautiful that I'm happy I get to live in a city where it exists, no matter how sorry I am for the reason that birthed the park. I'm at a point in my life where I feel like I hear a lot of "this sucks." Yet, the 911 Memorial Park and the High Line remind me that not every new thing sucks and that sometimes city planning and corporate sponsors get it right.