You cannot see down into the black pit at the center of the memorial where the water drops a second time, which is both a bit frustrating and darkly poetic. Where did they go, the buildings and the many people in them that used to stand here?
Taking a cue from Lin's memorial, but with a far different organizational principle, the names of the victims for this memorial are etched into granite slabs that rim the fountains.
While the 58,261 names on the Vietnam Memorial are arranged by the chronological dates upon which people died, the names of the 9/11 victims are grouped differently. Michael Arad has been quoted as saying that the names are grouped in accord with "meaningful adjacencies."
This scheme "allows us to place the names of those who died that day next to each other in a meaningful way, marking the names of family and friends together, as they had lived and died," said Arad. So, groupings of names may reflect where victims were, their affiliations (the companies they worked for or groups attending a conference together) and their personal relationships.
At night, light not only illuminates the streaming fountains, but shines up through the voids created by each letter of a name, which must pack an additional punch.
Running one's hands over the names is ultimately numbing. So many people who went to work one day and didn't come home that night.
My wife finds the name of Huntington native Dr. Paul Ambrose, killed in American Airlines Flight 77, which terrorists commandeered and drove into the Pentagon.
I'm stopped in my tracks by the Italian name of someone I don't know, but whose name etched through granite is doubly resonant: Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas and her unborn child.
How the world changed on that September day in 2001. The complexities reverberate to this day: the winding up and down of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and their countless deaths; the endless growth of a sprawling national security apparatus; the unresolved incarcerations at Guantanamo Bay, where a hunger strike currently grows by the day.
And it seems like tempting fate to throw up the Freedom Tower, which will rise taller than the World Trade Center towers themselves.
Yet these are political reflections that come days after our visit to the memorial. Sitting near one of the trees growing anew on the World Trade Center site, I remark to my 23-year-old son: "You don't need a devil. Human evil is devil enough in this world."
But those are mere words, pontification from a dad imagining what it would be like to have lost my spouse or child that day and aghast at the average folks who were indeed lost.
It's odd to admit, but I entered the memorial site not knowing what to expect. I'd read nothing about the fountains in advance. So, I spent 20 minutes with the north tower fountain and its names, thinking that this fountain was the whole memorial.
I wandered away.
Then, I heard other splashing sounds. I walked over and realized what they were.
Yes. The other tower.
And more names.
Want to go?
You need a pass to visit the 9/11 Memorial. The easiest way to get one is at 911memorial.org/visitor-passes. Reservations made online or by phone carry a $2 nonrefundable service fee. Same-day visits are also available on a first-come, first-served basis at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site, 20 Vesey St., New York.
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.