GYC Village

blog posts from GYC's participants, alumni, & staff

The New Attraction: 9/11 Memorial

By Nina Vershuta

One of the pools at the 911 Memorial

Last week I visited the National September 11 Memorial, commemorating the 2,983 men, women, and children whose lives were tragically lost in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993. While construction continues on the Freedom Tower and the Museum Pavilion, the eight-acre 9/11 Memorial opened on the 10th anniversary of Islamic extremist group al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 which crashed in western Pennsylvania.

When I saw the 9/11 Memorial on the Global Youth Connect’s itinerary, I expected to have a day of reminiscence, reflection, and maybe even a few tears.  The memorial, designed by Michael Arad, contains the North and South Pools, located in the footprints of the fallen Twin Towers. The largest waterfalls in North America – 30 feet – run down the pools unto a center abyss. Each pool is surrounded by bronze parapets, inscribed with the names of the victims of the attacks.

On September 11, 2001, the world watched New York City transform into a dust storm of smoke, debris, and leaping victims. It marked a fundamental change in the history of America and the world as we know it. We all recall precisely where we were when we received the news of the tragedy. As a ten-year-old, it was the first time I felt panic, terror, and hopelessness as one by one, parents ran to pick up their children from school, refusing to let them out of their arms (for days may I add) while watching the horror unfold.

Instead of finding solace in the place made sacred by the tragedy, I found a commercialized tourist attraction. Several strangers approached me, asking me to take pictures of them – they all smiled, some of them held their thumbs up, and one of the pairs of tourists even attempted a synchronized jump during their picture.

Eleven years after the most daunting terrorist attack in the history of America, people seem to have forgotten the loss of immense innocence, the bravery of first respondents, and the unity of one nation. The years following the terrorist attacks, New York City lived and breathed terror, sorrow, and hatred.

Now, the exact location of the Twin Towers has lost its deep meaning through the strategic absence of emotional appeal. The memorial lacks any depiction of the events, leading to the absence of grief or hatred. Just laughter. There is something unsettling about laughter at the grave of thousands.

I hope that the Museum captures the essence of calamity experienced by New Yorkers and the global community alike and emphasizes the Memorial’s mission to “reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance and intolerance.”

Fighting terror with terror has cost America more than than a trillion dollars and thousands of soldiers and civilians dead in Iraq and Afghanistan. The question remains: Whose freedom? Whose ignorance? Whose life is worth respecting?

Nina Vershuta at the 9-11 Memorial. Photo credit: Viveka Hulyarkar

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