Remembering 9/11

11 Sep

On a hot August day a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Ground Zero as it has come to be famously known; the site of the fallen twin towers of New York City.

New York, the city that never sleeps, the city that seemingly has a constant buzz of adrenaline in its atmosphere, somehow had a different atmosphere in and around Ground Zero. No, not one of morbidity or even melancholy, but surprisingly, (considering the rest of New York), one of tranquility.

Two deep pits with cascading waterfall-like streams down their sides mark where the towers once stood. The sound of the gurgling water and the trees and grass around the area makes it an idyllic, calming spot right in the middle of the city.

It could easily be a spot that someone needing a break from high stress work could gravitate to from the surrounding high rises. Eleven years down the line, one has to pinch oneself to remember this was the site of a great tragedy. And that, despite the number of boards and placards detailing the tragedy, on the way to the memorial.

The area is still under construction and visitors have to go through a fairly convoluted trail consisting of a number of high security checks. It was almost reminiscent of Sri Lanka, the number of check points to get to the memorial. People had to make their way in long, slow queues but that didn’t deter them. Behind me an American father was explaining to his blonde haired daughter of about eight years, the significance of the place; “A long time ago, two big towers stood here. Some planes came and crashed into them killing many people….”

It reminded me how much time had passed and that another generation had born, who would view this as ‘history.’ I was barely 20 when I saw the news of the burning towers on television. Few people who saw them can forget the images of people jumping off the flaming buildings, to their certain deaths.

It is amazing how fast the time has flown. Eleven years later, as I wandered around the memorial, I could still remember vividly the scenes of horror and carnage I saw on television, from half a world away. Standing and wandering around the site itself however, it was difficult to juxtapose the images of tranquility before me with the horror of that day.

Many Americans and international visitors alike visit Ground Zero. The names of the 2977 victims of the 9/11 tragedy are engraved on the perimeters of the two pools that mark the sites of the towers. It is a memorial that took several years to erect, and had a lot of thought put into it. For all that, it is deceptively simple to the eye. It soothes the senses without any sense of the extraordinary or the extravagant.

It is a place that seeks to remember a tragedy but also offers solace and the hope of continuity anew.
Thus, a few hundred metres away from Ground Zero is a scorched and damaged building, left to be exactly like that, as a stark reminder of the burning carnage of 9/11.

Within the memorial area, one of the most well known features is a tree – a tree that had been in the area since the 1970s but almost died and had to be nursed back to health. The only tree from the original location to survive, it has come to be known as the ‘Survivor tree.’

A lot of care was taken to revive and replant it.
Ground Zero is very symbolically not only about tragedy. It is also about surviving that tragedy.

The Survivor tree as it was being replanted



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