A sign indicating the “rules of conduct” for attendance greets you upon entry at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. “Please be reminded that the 9/11 Memorial is a place of remembrance and quiet reflection,” it says. “Visitors should exercise proper decorum, personal behavior, and conduct at all times.”
While decorum may not be a word in the average American’s vocabulary, it goes without saying that the Memorial pools that now exist on the hallowed ground where nearly 3,000 people lost their lives on September 11th, 2001 aren’t exactly the ideal environment to exercise one’s tastelessness. To most, the mere idea of acting in a less-than reverent manner when standing on such consecrated land would be impossible.
Said pools, located where the Twin Towers once stood, are enormous holes in the Earth surrounded by the names of those who perished—visiting them is a solemn, overwhelming experience.
The sheer magnitude of the one-acre pools, the largest manmade waterfalls in the United States, is intended to impart the enormity of the loss of life that took place in the buildings they have replaced. The intense sound of water flowing, constantly flowing, down the infinitely deep pools drowns out the sound of the city surrounding it, thus facilitating the aforementioned quiet reflection.
It is a place to reflect on the fragility of human life and the impermanence of being. It is a place to honor the brave men and women of the New York City Police and Fire Departments who made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives to assist their city’s residents in their time of need.
It is also a place to honor the average folks who lent a hand to their fellow man, and in doing so either risked or lost their lives as well. It is a place to think about the ineffable strength of the human spirit, and our ability as a people to rally together when presented with senseless tragedy.
While the names of the thousands of soldiers who perished fighting the “War on Terror” that ensued post-9/11 are not listed, knowledge of their sacrifice, as well as the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqi and Afghanistan civilians, adds further grimness to the Memorial.
Realization that the events of that fateful day, and the fear they induced, set the wheel in motion for America to allow the Patriot Act to be instated, and to reelect George W. Bush, and all that those events entailed, adds further grimness still. We did not merely lose life that day. We lost liberty as well.
It is a place, indeed, of remembrance and quiet reflection. A sacred place, where one may, and should, ruminate on matters of life and death.
Which I’m totally gonna do in, like, one second. Um… but first? Lemme take a selfie.
Follow Megan Koester on Twitter.