Last Friday, AN went to the 9/11 Memorial, without a press pass, an official tour guide, or a hard hat. We went as a neighbor and experienced the place as any other visitor might. First, we attempted to get our ticket online. After checking the availability on Tuesday, we dithered, and by Wednesday online tickets were gone. But at the temporary exhibition space on Liberty Street, and a manager told us that a $20 ticket to the museum would get us into the memorial without reservations.
After skipping the exhibition, we went through a series of checkpoints akin to international travel at JFK. The experience was a sobering reminder of one of the many aftereffects resulting from the attacks. Everything metal had to be removed and placed into an x-ray machine, but shoes did not have to be taken off. The staff at the metal detectors were stern and efficient. The line moved swiftly. At the following two or three additional checkpoints, administrators became friendlier.
On entering the plaza, the public was set free. Watching the crowd interact with the space was almost as intriguing as memorial itself. Boy scout troops scampered, parents called out, as the crowd headed toward the South Pool where they clustered for a first glimpse.
The recreational mood dissipated as the crowd dispersed and began to walk around the pool. The scale began to take root and voices lowered. By the time they reached Snøhetta’s pavilion, more than a few visitors seemed disoriented. Several gazed through the glass at original World Trade columns and wondered aloud if this was in fact where the towers once stood. Others explained that the pools were the footprints. Again, the crowd regrouped and conversed, before separating and drifting off to the next pool.
The light on the original column was in fact among the warmest light on the plaza. The the pool’s lighting felt as cool as the water itself–stark but not sterile. The lamppost columns spread throughout the plaza in slim vertical gestures, so that the temporary incandescent washing the World Trade columns provided an oddly warm punctuation to the entire site.