An excerpt from my journal upon visiting the 9/11 Memorial, July 26, 2013.
The sense here is one of absence.
Each inverted fountain a pit, reflecting for me the pit I feel in my stomach. A stillness as the water floats silently toward an abrupt fall. The thin threads of water evoking tears, C said, or for me bodies falling. And in the center, an inevitable drift towards a hole with no bottom that can be seen.
The names in bronze surrounding the pools – so many that you feel a sense of remembrance and anonymity – also reflect an absence. The letters are carved out; there, but not there – like the people it seeks to memorialize.
The ongoing construction around the site is a constant reminder of New York City. Lovely, bittersweet, inescapable.
We sat against a temporary barrier to read the map and were abruptly shooed away by a dispassionate security guard. An oddly irreverent move, I thought. “What if we’d been crying there?” I asked C. The brusque tone of the guard was out of place in with the solemnity and awe. We hadn’t been doing anything inappropriate. “The only inappropriate thing is disrespect,” I said.
I’m reminded of Alan Bennett. In History Boys, when Hector muses about school groups at Auschwitz: “Where do they eat their lunches? Do they take pictures? Are they smiling? Nothing is appropriate.”
Children, too young to know anything about what is being remembered, run about the grounds laughing, yelling, playing with the water and the stones surrounding the trees. A natural order, I thought. It’s good that we remember the pain and the sorrow, but it’s also good that there will be those after us who won’t have to.
I look up to see yet another absence. The sky is bright and cloudless, and there is so much of it. An odd sight in New York, especially in this part of the city. The abundance of clear blue sky is its own silent reminder of what once was there, but is no more.