I went to visit the National 9/11 Memorial with my husband on Wednesday. It was a hazy day, yet the reflection of the sun on the granite, the water, and the glass made it warmer and brighter than it really was. Or maybe it was the aura of the place.
It is a truly beautiful and elegant memorial. The sheets of water mask all other ambient noise, not so easy to do when standing along the West Side Highway. The typeface used on the parapet is a classic serif font called Optima, created by Hermann Zapf. You will recognize it from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. It is dignified and solemn and entirely appropriate.
My husband, as a volunteer at Tribute, has gotten to know a lot of mothers who lost their sons on Sept. 11. He printed out the locations of their names in advance from the website (although you can also do it at kiosks on the plaza) and we went to visit them, tenderly sweeping our hands over their names. The metal was surprisingly cool to the touch.
When we walked from the South Pool to the North Pool, a gentle breeze picked up and blew water toward us. Seeing the calm water under the parapet flow into its forceful rush to the bottom and then complete its deliberate descent into nothingness reminded me of nothing less than a visual representation of grief. I don’t mean the literal stages of grief as articulated by Elizabeth Kübler Ross, I mean simply that grief at various times in our lives can be a quiet moment of reflection, or hot angry tears, or sometimes it recedes, slipping below the surface only to reappear on anniversaries or birthdays.
I am not the only one to draw this conclusion. Colleague David W. Dunlap, when writing about the testing of the waterfalls in the May 12, 2005 New York Times, wrote: “Rather, they were more like beaded curtains, with a striation that called to mind the vertical bands of the twin tower facades, dissolving in a cascade of tears.”