I finally made it to the September 11th Memorial in southern Manhattan this evening. The weather was appropriate (gray, drizzly) and the memorial itself was impressive. Much of the original site is still under construction, so you enter via a long, circuitous path cordoned off by moveable steel fences. Security is also still tight; I had to run my jacket and pocket contents through a metal detector for the third time today (the first two passes were occasioned by my stint as a potential juror).
Once inside you appreciate the somber construction. All of the stone is gray, black, or speckled with each; the footprints of the towers are set with huge reflecting pools around which are bronze plates with the names of the deceased grouped primarily according to location on the day of the attack (plane, Pentagon, North or South Tower), and then by affiliation, so that coworkers, friends, and families could be grouped together. The various ladder and truck numbers, precincts, flight numbers, etc. are in raised lettering The names are etched out and light from within the plates; the pregnant women’s names appear with the words “and unborn child.”
Water is pumped from beneath the plates and flows serenely toward the center of the sunken fountain. It reaches an edge and is divided into even rivulets that fall some thirty feet to a pool below; the endless repeated streams shimmer and glow silver against the light behind them and recall the static, stately lines of aluminum that ran up the sides of the towers; the movement from the still-looking water of the edge to the beautiful, shapeless images made by the falling water bring to mind a sort of transformation from silent, collective nothingness into individual being, before each stream crashes inexorably to its fate at the second level of the pool; the water is turbulent for a short time but quickly settles into mild waves as it moves toward the center, where, before it has a chance to become glassy again, it falls into a central rectangle which is unlit and looked as black as death.
I pictured the site as it appears from above: two separate squares on the earth, each swallowing water and memory down into the black pit at the center, two lidless eyes staring continuously at the sky that created them.