What We Feel and What We Mean
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Category — How it Feels

9/11 Memorial

Going to the memorial, I did not know what to expect. I did not see the memorial on TV and it has been almost five years since I have last visited and actually walked around the World Trade Center.

Honestly, I feel unconnected to 9/11. Even though I am a New Yorker, when the attacks happened, I was very young. I did not know what to make of it. Even now, although I am aware of what happened, aware of how terrible it was, and aware of how it affects my daily life, I still feel distant from the attacks. I feel sad for all who died and grateful to those who sacrificed their lives to save others. But as much of a tragedy as it is, I will never feel pained, just sad due to respect, because 9/11 did not affect me personally/directly. I did not know anyone who died from the attacks. And, with all due respect, that made my visit to the memorial feel quite impersonal.

Walking around the memorial, I noticed how shiny and impressive the buildings around looked. Although I am not much of a fan of urban buildings, they were still pretty amazing, the way they towered over me. I also noticed the soothing sounds of the waterfalls and the way the mist gently touched my face. I wondered how beautiful they would have looked at nighttime. And the water looked as if it was dancing as it fell along the walls, creating the illusion of a cityscape. And the names were well-placed. In reach, in sight, without strain.

October 4, 2011   No Comments

911 Memorial

While we we waiting to go into the memorial, I took in all the construction work going around me. It was exciting to see another skyscraper go up, though sometimes I wonder whether it is a good decision. Then we were suddenly let into what I thought at first was JFK airport. I couldn’t help but feel sad as I put my bag through the scanner and went through a metal detector. These safety precautions should definitely be taken buts it is depressing that we must come to these measures. My spirits were soon lifted when we came upon the actual memorial. The waterfalls were beautiful and I liked that they were symbolically placed in locations of the twin towers. I respected that they put the names of all the victims of this tragedy. Some had unique objects attached, one of which was a flower. It gave a unique touch to each name just like the people were. However, as I thought more about, the idea of the water falling down just as the twin towers fell down was kind of grim. I was wondering whether they should have taken more of an optimistic approach but there is no right or wrong answer. How that day should be remembered and honored changed from person to person.

I kept having flashbacks to the  Sep 11, 2001, just ten years ago. I was eight years old and I did not understand anything at the time. All I remember is going home early with the other kids. Everyone seemed panicked and I saw puffs of smoke filling the air. When I asked my parents what happened, they tried to explain it as best as they could but it took a little growing to fully take in what happened. Now that I look back on that day, I see how far we’ve come and the long road ahead of us.

October 3, 2011   No Comments

9/11 Memorial

There are so many aspects one could review in respect to our little outing.  Professor Ugoretz mentioned context, both external and internal, but as all we New Yorkers know, trying to describe the context of the chaos of lower Manhattan becomes a chaotic task in and of itself.  I will therefore limit myself by only expounding on a few details that stuck out to me.  First, I’d like to say it’s interesting how I stepped out of one scene of immediate violence (the shooting of which many of us stumbled onto on our way to the memorial) and into a scene of past violence.  Next, one of the first things I noticed when I got off the subway in Manhattan, was how touristy the area had become.  There were signs up pointing the way to the memorial, and long before I even got there, I was immersed in crowds of people taking photos.  There’s nothing essentially wrong with this, but it somehow, to me anyway, cheapens the spot.  Instead of being a place of peace, or rest, or quiet, it was overflowing with gawkers, and it seemed awfully morbid.  At the same time, I realize I make a part of the morbidity of this tourism.  I was there gawking with the rest of them.  The next thing I noticed was how loud everything was despite the seeming solemnity of the place.  The construction was going on full force, as well as the sounds of the city.  Life was going on outside the memorial.  As for the fountains, I thought them especially beautiful.  The noise of the waterfall helped drown out the other infiltrating noises.  I thought about how they are literally grave markers, which made me suddenly reluctant to lean on them.  And the way the fountain was constructed, with the water flowing continuously toward the middle until it fell away to some space I couldn’t see, seemed in my mind to make some sort of an afterlife, in a fanciful and tragic way.  It was the way the water moved, the shapes made by light playing on the falls, like fleeting spirits, and the reflections of the building surrounding it like odd, cubist sentinels.  I kept thinking about how all these building were witness to the destruction, and how all the people in those buildings were witness to it too.  And all those people with sad faces, who perhaps knew the names on the fountain, made me think of that river in Hades, the river Lethe.  Anyone who drank from it was given the gift of forgetfulness, and of oblivion.  I’m not sure if this is a pleasant connection to make with the tragedy of Sept. 11 because we can never truly forget, nor should we, but I thought the thought anyway.  And then I sighed to myself, and went home.

September 28, 2011   1 Comment

9/11 Memorial

Ruminations on the 9/11 Memorial

The most striking aspect of the 9/11 Memorial is that its context is so bizarrely out-of-context in the generic sense, and yet the memorial itself could only make sense in such a setting.

That sounded much more coherent in my head.

In English:

I exited the 5 train on Wall Street and Broadway and figured I would wander around until I found the memorial. It would be big and imposing and official-like.

I was wrong on that account but I found it anyway. The signs were everywhere, small enough to miss if you weren’t actually looking for just that- a sign pointing towards the memorial. The little prompts only heightened my anticipation. What I found at the corner of Greenwich and Albany was a large area enclosed in grey-painted plywood. It was anticlimactic but not disappointing.

Being in the memorial- being a part of the memorial- was an equally strange experience.

It was noisy.

I suppose I expected it to be mournfully quiet and sedately peaceful, like a museum.

And then I realized that the memorial- no, the event  being memorialized- couldn’t be removed from the city in which it happened. And the city- downtown Manhattan- is noisy. The horns are blaring, sirens wailing, people talking, and now, a new sound of water rushing. If the memorial were placed, pristine, in a museum, with a quiet floor all to itself, the memorial would become antiquated before the exhibit even opened. It would already be dead. If the purpose of the twin pools is to guard the memory of the deceased then it suits that they should be a living memorial. The noise of the eight waterfalls blends with the beat of the city.

I wondered, then, what the memorial meant to the people visiting it- to the officers gaurding the sight that now gaurds the memory of the departed; to the people like us who are coming to see and to remember; and to the people who have nothing to remember becasue they weren’t yet born when the towers fell.

I approached a few officers and asked them what it felt like to be at the memorial. The responses were unexpected. Two of the five I approached posited in uncertain terms that it was “an honor” but couldn’t elaborate. Two queried suspiciously if I was a reporter and weren’t very cooperative. And one didn’t say much worth recording. Upon reflection, I realized it isn’t wise to approach police officers on duty. I also realized I was expecting some bold statement about bravery and dedication to one’s country. What I got was a far more realistic response. One officer informed me he was in college when the towers fell. He said being at the site made it feel real. As it turns out, they may be wearing suits and carrying guns but the officers protecting the site feel much the same about it as we- the visitors- do.

What I found most interesting, though, were the children, the two year olds and five year olds who are looking at history; this memorial is dead to them. It is an historical monument to an historical event, much like every other monument in the city or in Washington D.C. is to us. I snapped this adorable picture of a five year old snapping a picture of the memorial and another one of an infant in a stroller, playing in the water of the memorial. They will grow up in the shadow of the new tower, looming large and shiny and rocket-like over the memorialized remnants of the two that dominated the Manhattan skyline when we were their age.

Child Holding Camera, Inspecting Picture She Just Took
Child Playing With the Water

I can’t fault them. When I saw the memorial for the first time, stood by the rushing water and ran my fingers over the cold stone, cut with the names of the fallen, I did not think of my fourth grade classroom, stuffy and cramped. I did not contemplate the fact that I still remember my desk was four rows back on the aisle. I did not think of my principal abruptly disrupting class to tell us the twin towers had fallen. I wasn’t thinking about my confusion, that I didn’t know then what the twin towers were nor could I comprehend my teacher’s panic.

I didn’t think: “So this is it”.

The Gaping Hole

The memorial has a life of its own, so to speak. The value imparted to it by the horrific event that happened there is real. The emotions the viewers, visitors, and spectators feel when seeing it are more closely related, though, to the memorial itself and not to the event it memorializes. Even for those of us who were alive when it happened. Those staring into the depths of the twin pools, punctuated by two gaping holes, cannot fail to feel a sense of loss. No doubt the memorial was constructed like that- built downwards with streams of tears disappearing into a gaping hole in the ground- to convey a deep sense of loss. At least, that was the impression I got.


And on a completely unrelated point, I played “spot the American flag” while at the memorial.

I counted fifty.

September 28, 2011   No Comments