Peace, serenity, togetherness, bonding, grief but enormous strength. This is how I saw ground zero on my first visit. There is nothing to complain about this complex of monuments that is dedicated to all those lost their lives in 9/11 incident. One of the most unfortunate events of 21st century remains as a bruise in every living being’s heart connected directly and indirectly to this incident. I knew it made impact on everybody’s life, but now standing at this point, still, made me realise why it made such an impact. That day, humanity was in stake. Every human being with a heart and soul will not accept what happened here that day.
To watch everything on tv and to get live updates, was a tragedy, but to witness and feel this area for the first time in my life was something else. The names of the victims engraved, the falling water which made such a silent sound, the Oculus which looked like it was about to fly, everything so well designed that you feel sad and helpless; and content and strong at the same time.
The main features of the memorial were the two reflecting pools – north and south, each on the site of the fallen twin towers, the museum and the freedom tower. There is liberty park when you walk further down towards the liberty street after you cross the south pool. The later addition was the oculus – a bird shaped structure. The reflecting pools square in shape, have parapet level boundary where the names of the people who lost their lives are engraved. In the inner walls, water is falling from all sides, then the water flows through a flat surface on this level which falls further down into another square hole, after that one cannot not see where the water goes, it just goes down deep into the hole which looks infinite. Looking at that hole gave me the thrills of sitting in a roller coaster or standing on the edge of a high-rise building.
We entered the site through the Church Street, on the Fulton Street. While walking towards the memorial, along the Church Street, on the left there was Saint Paul Chapel. Leaving it behind we approached the Fulton Street. The first thing we saw was therefore the Oculus. The Oculus designed by architect Santiago Calatrava is one of a kind. It served as a metro station as well as a mall. Though devised a long time back it was constructed a lot later compared to the other structures there. This structure from outside was a bird ready to fly. At first the huge organic structure may seem a bit overwhelming.
Once you are at site and also inside this huge conclave with wings ready to fly, you feel its enormous potential as a structure perfect to be lying along the memorials. It feels like a soul that can rise to eternity. Like I said before this memorial site gives both the feeling of grief and hope. The Oculus plays the part of giving hope. Though conceived as a metro station and a mall, it adds its rightful value to the complex. It looks grand from outside and when you enter the complex, it goes underground two more floors. This gives the feeling that it is grounded and not yet ready to escape. The structure of the Oculus is like the ribs. The hollow parts let the natural light enter the buildings as well as it gives the view of the outside. So, at different spots you see different perspective of the outside. From the central glass, one can see the freedom tower, rising high. The cantilevered stairs on the both sides of the structure help the visitor to admire the beauty of the structure, you come one step closer to the core. The fact that it is so white also adds onto its light structural design which could fly at any moment. This form speaks freedom, it speaks liberation. Freedom to speak and express and to have a life not threatened by some unfortunate incidents. The only way to move forward is to think positive and this does justice to the collective feeling of moving on. As Sadhguru had said ‘do you want to be part of the problem or do you want to be part of the solution’. The choice is yours, I have always felt my try is not enough. When I looked at the Oculus, I felt that ‘there will be someone witnessing what you have done in your life and admiring it from the core’. Feeling that and smiling, I moved on.
When I came out of the Oculus from the other side, I started walking towards the first reflecting pool – the north pool, I could see the continuous water fall. When you reach closer to it, the depth of the reflecting pool catches all your attention. It looked like an infinite well so deep inside that you will never reach the core. The sound of the water falling from the concrete into the deep well added to its deep drama. Probably the sorrow the world witnessed that day could be symbolised in such a way only. The names of all the people who lost their lives was engraved there in a marble slab surrounding the pool. A white rose was placed in the name of the person whose birthday fell on the corresponding day. We saw few white roses that day too. The white rose, the sound of the water, all the tourists there respectful of the surrounding added the perfect soul and unity to the place.
When I turned back from there, I saw the Oculus again, with all its virtue, shining and rising high. Nothing can break me, and nothing can make us fall if we stand united. It felt like it was giving this message to all the people who were there. I could sit there in silence and hear the silence. I have tried capturing it through my lenses too but like I have said before, words could have bigger impact in some cases. I hope I am able to do justice to the memorial with my words.
We then went to the other reflecting pool – the south pool, had the same feeling, not a slight lesser grief. Stayed there for some time. The whole site of the pools and the museum was supposed to be complex together like an urban park. There was some construction going on there, so we could not see the exact design of it from the outside. After that we headed to the liberty park. This was across the street from the memorial complex and from here you could have a view of the pools and other parts of the memorial. This park was also a fine example of a landscape design. With very urbanistic approach, there were seating, at different levels that came up and merged to the ground. There was on display an art piece ‘The Sphere’ sculptured by a german artist Fritz Koenig. Rightfully known as Koenig’s sphere, this sculpture shares its own story as the only existing artwork from the 9/11 attack. There is also a documentary about it called ‘Koenigs kugel’ in german. We climbed the liberty park from the west end and when we walked across, on the east end was the Saint Nicholas Greek orthodox church. Leaving them all behind we camouflaged into the concrete jungle of Manhattan one more time.
There were seven buildings there before the 2001 incident. Now they are planning to make 5 more with one freedom tower already erected. This time, we could not go inside the museum as the queue was huge and we did not have time. Next time, I will try to visit inside, though I know I will be sad, though I know I might cry but I am sure, it will make me stronger and braver to tackle life as it comes.