This essay, published on Tuesday, September 11, 2012, is exclusive to Notablog. 

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A MEMORIAL FOR THE AGES:

A PICTORIAL

By Chris Matthew Sciabarra

From the Staten Island Ferry

The Twin Towers, from the Staten Island Ferry, May 12, 2001
This photo and all photos below by Chris Matthew Sciabarra

 

On Thursday, September 6, 2012, I traveled to the World Trade Center (WTC) site to visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.  It is here where the Twin Towers once stood.  Until they were brought down by acts of terror on September 11, 2001.  I knew many of those who were killed, but I know even more survivors, some of whom I've interviewed for my annual tribute, "Remembering the World Trade Center."  This year, I provide a pictorial of my Memorial visit.

The prospect of going to the Memorial (the Museum has not opened yet) was daunting; friends and relatives who had visited the site told me that it was a deeply moving experience.  But nothing could have prepared me for the solemnity of the site.  Upon seeing the first of the two "footprints," each marking the place where one of the Twin Towers once stood, my eyes watered.  A tearful reflection, perhaps, of the waterfalls-in-perpetuity that mark each of the footprints.  This was once a place of commerce and trade, of bustling, flourishing life.  On a bright late summer morning in September, eleven years ago, a Tuesday much like today, it became a battleground.  And a cemetery.  Today, a Memorial stands.  It engulfed me in a whirlwind of emotions:  Moments of pain and profound sadness, punctuated still by moments of rage, that such an act could have happened in the city I still call home.

Below are a number of photos that I took; they can't possibly do justice to the site.  This is a Memorial for the Ages, a reminder that we can never forget those who perished, or those who have survived, and who go on living, in the wake of unimaginable tragedy.

The first thing that one encounters on this site, known for death and destruction, is:  Life.  The site is teeming with life.  Not simply hundreds of tourists and visitors.  But trees.  Over 400 white oak trees.  And one more.  It is known as "The Survivor Tree."

The Survivor Tree, 9-6-12

The Survivor Tree at the Memorial, 9-6-12


The WTC Commemorative Guide tells the story:


All but one of the trees on the Memorial are swamp white oaks. The exception is a Callery pear tree known as the “Survivor Tree.” This tree was planted on the original World Trade Center plaza in the 1970s, and stood at the eastern edge of the site near Church Street. After 9/11, workers found the damaged tree, reduced to an eight-foot-tall stump, in the wreckage at Ground Zero.  The tree was nursed back to health in a New York City park [Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx] and grew to be 30 feet tall, sprouting new branches and flowering in the springtime. In March 2010, the tree was uprooted by severe storms, but true to its name, it survived. In December 2010, the tree returned to the WTC site. Standing just west of the south pool, it embodies the story of survival and resilience that is so important to the history of 9/11. Today, the tree is supported by temporary guide wires as it takes root.

As one moves into the Memorial site, however, one becomes aware that this is still a place of immense suffering.  Each of the two Tower footprints on the site is outlined by 30-foot waterfalls, cascading into a reflecting pool and then into a void.  It is a symbolic absence, conjoined to a presence:  the names of the dead, engraved on granite panels, around the perimeter of each of the footprints.  People's names are grouped by the Towers in which they were last present, and among those individuals with whom they spent their final moments.

South Tower Footprint, 9-6-12

South Tower Footprint, 9-6-12

The first "footprint" that one sees is the place on which the South Tower of the World Trade Center once stood (the original Two World Trade Center).

 

North Tower Footprint, 9-6-12

The North Tower Footprint, 9-6-12

The second "footprint" that one encounters marks the place on which the North Tower once stood (the original One World Trade Center).

 

Walking the perimeter of each footprint, looking at the engraved granite panels,
we were able to locate only a few of the many people we knew who were lost on September 11th.

 

Lisa Trerotola, RIP

Lisa L. Trerotola was the sister-in-law of Lenny Trerotola, who was kind enough to grant me an interview back in 2009.
She worked in the North Tower.
On that day, and on this day, we remember her.
Rest in peace.

 
Courtney Wainsworth Walcott, RIP


Courtney Wainsworth Walcott was getting ready to attend my sister's 2001 Brooklyn Tech Cheering Squad Reunion.
She talked to him on Monday, September 10th.
They were going to make plans to meet for lunch after the 15th.
He worked in the South Tower.
When he was lost on 9/11, my sister sent his family the jersey he had ordered for the reunion.

On that day, and on this day, we remember him.
Rest in peace.

 

Andre G. Fletcher


Andre G. Fletcher was another one of the students my sister knew at Tech.
He and his twin brother Zach were involved in activities and very popular.
Andre was a terrific "kid" who became a wonderful adult.
Both he and his brother became firefighters for the FDNY.
Andre perished in the South Tower.
On that day, and on this day, we remember him.
Rest in peace.


 
Sylvia San Pio Resta and Her Unborn Child, RIP


I didn't know
Sylvia San Pio Resta.
She was the only Spaniard to die in the attack.
She was 26 years old and pregnant.

She is among those honored with the phrase "and her unborn child."
And that, in itself, must have been beyond devastating for her family.

On that day, and on this day, we remember them.
Rest in peace.


These are only a few of the nearly 3,000 names of human beings who are forever memorialized at the site.  It is overwhelming.  It is almost impossible to express the depth of loss that this tragedy still evokes.

But then one looks above the horizon of this place that was once called The Pit.  And one sees buildings.  New buildings rising to new heights.  Nothing is more appropriate, in my view---nothing is more honorable---than to restore this place with the promise of new work, new life.

The Building Continues...One World Trade Center, formerly called The Freedom TowerRebuilding the WTC Site


These are some of the buildings currently under construction; on the far right and in the center panel is the new One World Trade Center, formerly called the "Freedom Tower," which will rise to 1,776 feet to become the tallest building in New York City and in the Western hemisphere.  These buildings are breathtaking sights to behold.  But they also stand as acts of defiance for those who will not give in to terror, who continue to live and work in this city.

 


 

Last year, on the Tenth Anniversary of the attack, I went with my family, to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, as I have so many times since that catastrophic event.  We looked out across the East River, to honor the fallen. And we try to remember---at this point, it's almost an act of imagination---exactly where the Towers once stood.  A plaque on the Promenade commemorates the Twin Towers with a photograph, always adorned with flowers, placed in remembrance by many who visit.

Twin Towers Commemoration, 09-11-11

Twin Towers Commemoration, 9-11-11

From the Promenade on that Tenth Anniversary, I also photographed the Tribute in Light, two beams, symbolic of Twin Towers, that have shown up every September 11th.  In cloud cover, it appears like a UFO hovering over Manhattan Island, beaming down to earth.  Or perhaps a ghostly glow beamed upward toward the heavens from what was once called Ground Zero, a dual-apparition of the Twin Towers of memory, powered by the nearly 3,000 souls who lost their lives on that horrific day. 

A Tribute in Light, September 11, 2011

The World Trade Center Site:  A Tribute in Light.  At Night, 9-11-11.


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