Visiting the 9/11 memorial

I have a friend in town this week, which has been a great catalyst for working through a few more of the fun/obligatory NYC sights and gastronomic staples (Gray’s Papaya, I now know I can live another 30 years without you.) On Sunday, which was the first day this season to have a kiss of fall on the air, we visited the 9/11 memorial, a first for me. Honestly, I didn’t even know you could visit the memorial as I had no idea it existed. That section of the city is a mass of construction barriers and cranes, and I thought the endless pooling fountains of water that a previous out of town visitor told me were planned, were still months if not years from completion. I was totally wrong. They were there, and they were beautiful – heart-wrentchingly eternal and the deepest of voids.

But getting there was a true journey. After creating an online account on the memorial website, we reserved a time slot to visit. We arrived at the site with our confirmation code in hand and our IDs, as instructed. After winding around several blocks of blue construction fencing marked with arrows directing us to the entrance, we stood in line to exchange our code for real tickets. Then we got in another line. We snaked our way through rope barriers – the memorial itself still completely hidden – presenting our tickets at every turn. The entire scene was illuminated by the tinny light bouncing off of 1 World Trade Center (or was it 2?) like a second sun. We were already amused by the security when we came to a building with TSA-style screening: Our bags went into baskets on conveyor belts, our metal accessories came off, we passed carefully (shoes on) though beeping archways. We came out of the building and into the blinding light to see this sign:

And I for a split second, I truly thought that was it. Over. Done. Memorial experienced. Because while the past 11 years has taught us many things – hopeful things, terrifying things, the communal beauty of what we can be and maybe never were – if it has taught us anything at all it is how to go through a security line, submit to a scan. It has taught us to believe, casually, that the travelers around us could just as easily be laced with explosives as not, and preferably not, but in that case, why did we have to take off our goddamn shoes?

But as beautifully post-modern as that would have been, the security line was not the extent of the memorial.

Those papers depicted a hockey victory, which (I presume) the person on whose name they rest wasn’t here to celebrate.

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