Rebirth at Ground Zero
July 4, 2012

Rebirth at Ground Zero

Though neither of our kids had been born yet on September 11, 2001, they have heard enough about it to have many questions, which we do not always find easy to answer. For this reason alone visiting the recently opened 9/11 Memorial, designed where the Twin Towers once stood, was an extremely satisfying and gratifying experience. We were also quite surprised to realize that the site also makes for an excellent outdoors location to visit with your kids. Once you are there you will truly appreciate—among other things—just how large a space the towers encompassed. A large paved terrain now surrounds the area where they once were and, in accord with a wider trend across Manhattan island below Central Park, elements of natural landscapes—such as waterfalls and trees—have been incorporated into the design. This thoughtful reimagination of Ground Zero provides ample space for both physical and mental reflection. 

A trip to Ground Zero is obviously not the same sort of uncomplicated, joyous outing as a stroll in the park or a paddle down a river is likely to be. But when we spend time outdoors with our kids, being physically active and connecting with the natural world, we also want to help them understand human nature, in all its range. We found this destination gave us an opportunity to do just that, talking with them about a horrible day in our country’s history while enjoying the life-affirming surroundings of the memorial site.

After you enter you will approach two large square sunken waterfalls carved with the names of those who died on 9/11. The site is still very much a work in progress, dotted with newly-planted trees that will someday provide shade to visitors walking around the plaza.

Walking Around the Tower Sites

Head northeast and circulate counterclockwise around the site that was the South Tower. As mentioned above, water flows down from the edges of the tower footprints into a large reflecting pool below. On the ledge above, the names of those who lost their lives are inscribed, providing a sense of the scale of what took place. At the risk of recycling an overused expression, we would define it as the paradigm of a “teachable moment” for you and your kids. The references to the women who died while pregnant were particularly striking for our children. 

Once you have walked around the former site of the South Tower, head northwest to circulate around the former site of the North Tower. The total distance you will have walked is about half a mile. We also spent a significant time walking around the plaza talking with our kids about what we had just seen and what it meant.

Planning Your Visit

You will need to reserve tickets in advance at the following website: http://www.911memorial.org/. Be prepared to undergo a security process even more lengthy than what you experience at the airport. If you carry only what you would normally plan on bringing onto an airplane (check the link “Before You Arrive>Security Screening” on the website for details), you should be fine. There are numerous checkpoints before you actually enter the memorial. The rationale behind this, however, is obvious, given the history of terrorism at the site, and the staff was very polite and patient.

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