September 21 is World Peace Day so I felt it timely for me to visit the 9/11 Memorial in downtown Manhattan. The site is where the World Trade Centre's Twin Towers stood before their destruction on 11 September 2001.
This amazing memorial - set in a beautiful park occupying eight of the 16 acres at the World Trade Center - is a national tribute to the men, women and children killed in the terrorist attacks of 2001 and 1993. The site is very much a contemplative space separate from the usual sights and sounds of the bustling city.
The 9/11 Memorial features two enormous square waterfalls that flow into reflecting pools, each about an acre in size, set within the footprints of the original twin towers.
The names of very person who died as a result of those two attacks are inscribed in bronze around the huge twin memorial pools.
The 1993 attack ...
On February 26, 1993, at 12:18 p.m., a small cell of terrorists, with links to a local radical mosque and broader Islamist terror networks, detonated about 1,200 pounds of explosives in a rental van in the underground parking garage at the World Trade Center. The terrorists fled the area after setting the bomb to explode. The explosion created a five-story crater in the sub-grade levels of the towers and undermined the floor of an adjoining hotel.
This terrorist attack killed six people and injured hundreds.
The 2001 attack ...
The September 11 attacks were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks launched by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda upon the US in New York City and Washington DC.
Four passenger airliners were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists so they could be flown into buildings in suicide attacks. Two of those planes were crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in NYC. Within two hours both towers collapsed with the resulting fires causing partial or complete collapse of all other buildings in the WTC complex, as well as major damage to ten other large surrounding structures.
A third hijacked plane was crashed into the Pentagon in Washington DC, leading to a partial collapse in its western side. The fourth plane was targeted at Washington, D.C., but crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after its passengers tried to overcome the hijackers. In total, almost 3,000 died in the attacks, including the 227 civilians and 19 hijackers aboard the four planes.
Security at the site - like at all other major tourist sites in NYC - is quite intense. I have been scanned + removed the contents of my pockets and taken off my trouser belt so many times during this visit ... all in a good cause I suspect ...
Entry to the site is free - though visitors are asked to make a donation - so you can imagine the crowds every day. I got to the queue bright and early - gates open at 10am - by the time I had finished walking around each pool, the place was packed !!!
Swamp white oak trees create a rustling canopy of leaves over the plaza. Over 400 will eventually be planted.
This one tree is all the greenery that remained from the WTC gardens after the collapse of the towers.
The future ...
On the day of the attacks, New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani proclaimed, "We will rebuild. We're going to come out of this stronger than before, politically stronger, economically stronger. The skyline will be made whole again."
And in 2006 work on the One World Trade Centre Tower commenced - it is due for completion early 2014. It is now the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,776 ft (541 m) with the installation of the spire that rests atop the building.
I found my visit to the centre was a most moving experience - and although the site was crowded with tourists - the roar of the waterfalls and the immense size of the pools with the names around their edges - had a powerful impact, both as a tribute to those lives lost and a place of hope for future peace.