One World Trade Center - Freedom Tower
One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower) under construction.

On September 11, 2011, the 9-11 Memorial opened to the public as a place for us to honor and remember those who lost their lives on this terrible day 10 years ago.  This month, I made my own personal visit to this sacred ground and I wanted to share the photos and feelings I had from that day. I had made the trek to Ground Zero after the attacks to see the devastation, and say a prayer for those who died and their loved ones. That visit was very different from this one. While I wasn’t sure what to expect, I knew it would be powerful.

You must book your reservation on line at the 9-11 Memorial web site. They stagger the times you can visit in half hour increments. During this time of year, there was lots of availability, but during the summer or holidays, you should book a few weeks in advance. The web site gives you all the information you need to know to prepare for your visit. You do have to go through security and your personal items are x-rayed before you can enter the site.

Once you make your way through the construction pathways, you enter the site on the southwest corner. The first thing I noticed was the silence except for the waterfalls in the two pools. There were several hundred people there and no one spoke above a whisper. Now this was a Sunday, so I imagine during the week days, you would hear all of the construction going on around the Memorial. I observed many people doing etchings of names, taking pictures at specific names and silent prayers being said.

South Pool - 9-11 Memorial
South Pool

For me the emotions just flowed: tears, sighs, sorrow, and a heavy heart. As I walked around the two pools, I wanted to embrace all the names of those who died and tell them how much they were loved and are missed.

Another observation was the number of small children who were too young to know about this tragic day. Parents were on bent knee explaining what all of this meant. It was overwhelming at times. The 9-11 Museum is still under construction, but this will help our future generations know what happened on this day and how our world changed.

9-11 Memorial Museum
9-11 Museum under construction.
Survivor Tree 9-11 Memorial
Survivor Tree 9-11 Memorial Winter 2012

As I made my way to the exit, I noticed a group of people surrounding a 9-11 volunteer under a barren tree. I stopped to listen to his story and discovered that this tree is call the “Survivor Tree.”  According to the 9-11 Memorial web site:

The callery pear tree became known as the Survivor Tree after sustaining extensive damage, but living through the September 11, 2001, terror attacks at the World Trade Center. In October 2001, the tree with lifeless limbs, snapped roots and blackened trunk was discovered and freed from the piles of smoldering rubble in the plaza of the World Trade Center. The tree was originally planted in the 1970s in the vicinity of buildings four and five in the WTC complex near Church Street.The damaged tree measured eight-feet tall when it arrived in November 2001 at the Parks Department’s Arthur Ross Nursery in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.  It was nursed back to health and today has grown to a height of about 30 feet.

Here is a video of Alice Martin, who lost her husband on September 11, 2001, getting a private tour of the memorial site and learning the story of the Survivor Tree. Since my photo was taken in the dead of winter, this video shows the tree in full bloom and green leaves.

This was the perfect way to end my visit. While so many were lost, those of us left behind are the survivors as well. We have commitment to the 2,983 people who lost their lives to terrorists to never let it happen again.

If you’ve visited the 9-11 Memorial or would like to share your thoughts and memories, feel free to comment below.