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Aerial View of the 9/11 Memorial, Visualization by Squared Design Lab (911memorial.org)

Waterfalls now cascade and soothe at Ground Zero. Actually, the word “ground zero” may soon wither into an anachronism because the new memorial is a stunning work of art in its own right.

Standing at the edge and looking down into the Twin Towers’ footprints turned waterfall basins, columns of whitewater take up the entire field of vision. The calming soundtrack of splashing water is understated but sublimely poignant.

The memorial is minimalist enough with its clean geometric shape, simple colors and no frills design. It is mnemonic enough by listing all the victims’ names on the edges surrounding the two basins. It resembles an earthwork in that it takes advantage of the land’s singular topography. It is conceptual enough by leaving a wide and deep void untouched by even the furthest reaching water sprays. It is contradictory enough with something there and something missing.

On opening day, a 9/11 victim’s family member remarked to me that “today is a happy day, not a terrible day.” If only the memorial’s designers could have been a fly on the wall during this brief but potent exchange. Offering a dignified and uplifting solace to the victims’ families matters more than anything else on the tenth anniversary.

An old Cherokee proverb says that “the soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.” Heavy concepts like mourning, grief and trauma cannot be explained away by a pithy sentence. Nevertheless, the serenity of cascading waterfalls goes a long way towards giving the soul the rainbow it craves.

Admission to the memorial is free. However a reservation must be secured in advance using an online system. The memorial is open 10am – 8pm on weekdays and 9am – 8pm on weekends.

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Daniel Larkin

A man once knocked Daniel Larkin off his bar stool and flung mean words. He got up, smiled, and laughed as the bouncer showed him out. He doesn't give anyone the power to rain on his parade. It's more...

3 replies on “An Initial Reaction to the WTC Waterfalls”

  1. Wonderful account of the memorial. Looking forward to spending some time there. Question: Do you know what will happen in the winter? Is the water heated, or will it shut off in sub-zero temps. Also, if it is shut off and it snows, is it someone’s job to shovel off the WTC footprints? That would be weird.  

    1. According to the New York Times, the fountains will be heated so as to avoid freezing. The edges will also be air conditioned during the summer. The link to the awesome video that explains all these more technical issues is here.

  2. My mom survive, 911 n then was mentally incarcerated PST for a few years… I  the the soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.” Prov 

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