At the 9/11 Memorial strangers tell each other their stories. We talk to each other in the way that New Yorkers who lived through the attack on their city do. Michelle, who still works for the Port Authority, walked down 66 floors in the North Tower, and made it into City Hall with the raging cloud of debris in persuit. Monique, a security guard at the Memorial, was in the train on her way to work when the first plane hit. She talks now about people’s lack of respect, or maybe just obliviousness, sitting on the Memorial’s walls, on the names, and how she must ask them to stand up.
I had read that the two chasms duplicated the footprints of the buildings but as monumental as they are, they seemed smaller than the towers. I asked a nearby security guard and as we realized we knew each other from my frequent shoots at the World Financial Center, just across West Street, he said that yes, the pools are smaller–the footprints reach all the way to the white oaks that surround 1 and 2.
With the rain falling, as the daylight dimmed, the lights within the Memorial’s cascading water and behind the names, became visible and the glowing at first was balanced with and then overtook the purple sky.
Years ago, I experienced something similar and similarly sublime, sitting in “Meeting,” an installation by James Turrell at P.S. 1 in Long Island City. In a square room, Turrell had carved a rectangle through the ceiling and the roof, and the magic time to be there was when the day yeilded to twilight.
For me, closure is an alien concept and a cliche. Loss may lose its sharpness but it’s absorbed into the cells. My mother is dead eight years; in days it will be Abby’s yahrzeit. As Monique said, telling me about her mother who had died 13 years earlier, at 57, of breast cancer, it feels like yesterday. I hope the families of the 9/11 dead (and all the names are engraved, not just those who died in New York), are comforted some by the expansiveness and extreme beauty of the Memorial.