Someone asked me the other day what the highlight was of my trip to NYC. I had to think for a minute because there were so many fantastic, thrilling things but what I finally said, and it rather surprised me, was “the empty sky”.
I think all of us were absolutely appalled at the events, destruction, and death toll of 9/11. Not long after, I thought I’d like to go and just stand there and take it all in, kind of like a pilgrimage in mourning and solidarity with the families of those who were lost that day — people on the planes, in the buildings, near the buildings, fire fighters, police, ambulance drivers, those who went back to try to help others — so many, so senseless. Back then, I thought I needed someone to go with and I asked a few people but couldn’t find anyone interested in making the trip. Now, I hardly hesitate about traveling on my own and one of the reasons I wanted to go to NYC was to go to the World Trade Center.
My timing couldn’t have been better. The 9/11 Memorial Park and Museum opened this spring and One World Trade Center will be opening in the fall — it is almost finished now. The Museum left me speechless. There are still almost a thousand people either unidentified or not recovered. There are large posters and explanations of the events. This is to be expected. In addition, there is a wall with the names of everyone lost, several more walls are covered with posters, hopeful at the time they were first posted, made by families of people lost. It was so moving. There are small anti-terrorism posters in CD cases that have been made by school children pleading that 9/11 never be forgotten and for world peace. There are hanging streams of origami peace cranes, also made by school children.
From there, I went around the block to the Memorial Park entrance. Extreme security exists there for obvious reasons. This is where the twin towers stood. The tour guides, especially on the cruises where you have an awesome view of the the NYC skyline, refer to the “empty sky”. The two tribute pools occupy the foundation space of the former towers. The empty sky hovers above. A black frame stands around the edges of both pools. The names of the fallen and lost are carved right through the panels so people come and stand a single flower from the Survivor Tree in the park in the center of a name as a tribute. You can see the rebuilding going up all around the park. All, even the smallest children, move through somberly. Respectfully.
There is a gap between the black frame and the surface of the water where it flows out over the edge, down the sides of the pool in curtains, foaming at the bottom, and eventually falling into another, smaller pool in the center. Solemnly, people dip their fingers in the water at the edge and trace a name, letting the water drip through the letters and back into the pool. The silence of the empty sky is eloquent in its condemnation of the senseless destruction. The hatred. The empty sky will bear witness perpetually.