Thoughts From the 9/11 Memorial

This post has been in the works for nearly two weeks now. In the same way J and I were left speechless when we were there, I’m left speechless looking at the images.

A little back story, though. J was only 3 when the 9/11 attacks happened. She knows very little about any of it. That’s why I felt it was very important to take her to see the sacred space, one that is silent and almost still in a city of hustle and bustle.

We talked a lot both days about the tragedy. When we were walking in Midtown, we tried to imagine the streets being filled with people running and screaming, covered in ash and dust and blood and fear. When we were walking to the Memorial on Wednesday afternoon, the sky darkened and the rain started coming down heavier. It didn’t stop us. We still talked.

I shared with her the fact that Uncle Jas’s main client at the time, Marsh & McLennan, was housed in one of the WTC towers. That day, 295 employees were killed. Another employee was also killed on one of the hijacked planes. She was left speechless. Until then, she didn’t know that her uncle had that much of a direct connection to the devastation.

We talked about the fear and panic and uncertainty that followed. She can’t understand it. I hope she never has to.

Our first stop was at St. Paul’s. There we got to see the memorials they have set up, mainly focused around the rescue workers and emergency crews that helped in the recovery and cleanup effort. Pieces of the memorial that emerged almost immediately on their fence out front was preserved and is housed in the church.

Badges were collected from the various departments from across the country and world that came to help with the rescue and cleanup. These remain in St. Paul’s and continue to be added by those who come to pay their respects. We then moved towards the Memorial. It got eerily dark and the rain let up a small bit. Security was like nothing I’ve ever seen. We went through at least 4 check points. Made going through the airport look like easy stuff. I’ve never been more excited to go through an X-ray machine, honestly.

The first steps into the greenspace revealed the stunning scene. Inside this huge city, where the world’s tallest buildings once stood, a beautiful expanse of grass and trees and beauty abounds. The whirr of the water from the waterfalls is in the background, creating a silence that’s peaceful.

Walking to the first waterfall, we were both taken aback by the enormity of it all. I saw the WTC buildings in person, but she had no frame of reference. Trying to explain how much larger than any of the other buildings the Twin Towers were was difficult and I’m still not sure I did it justice.

Stepping up to the edge of the fall, seeing the first glimpse of the width and depth and beauty of it all… well, it was shocking. Unfortunately, the rain was coming down hard and taking pictures with my camera AND holding my umbrella proved very difficult.

There were names. So many names. We stopped at a few and instinctively just reached out and touched them, tracing the letters, remembering.

Always remembering.

It just happened that we stopped at Todd Beamer’s name. I had to fight the lump in my throat, seeing his name, knowing the story behind him having read his wife Lisa’s book.

But then I looked above it. “Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas and her Unborn Child.”

My heart sunk. I had to look her up.

Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas had just celebrated her 38th birthday, was a wife and daughter and soon-to-be-mother. She was writing a book that sounds like something I would like to read. She was on United Flight 93 and her life was taken far too early.

The fact that these were somebody’s wife, unborn child, husband, father, son, daughter, aunt, uncle, partner, best friend… it was just too big to fathom.

As the water fell and the rain fell and the city seemed to be engulfed in silence, life was going on around us. But for a few minutes it seems like the world has stopped.

Much like it had to feel that day…

I pray that with every drop of water that falls at the Memorial, with every day that goes by, our children will live in a safer world than we did. I pray that every firefighter, policeman, and emergency worker stays safe and gets to live to go home with their families.

I pray that the families of all the people named on the two waterfalls find as much peace and comfort in the beautiful space in their loved ones memory as we found.

If you are planning a trip to New York City and plan to go to the 9/11 Memorial, note that you have to have a ticket and will be required to show identification.


  • Lauren Hale

    Jana –

    This piece is so very powerful. I just visited the 9/11 memorial this past Saturday and was awestruck.

    Like you, I was amazed by the security required to get into the place. Like you, I couldn’t help but reach out and touch the names, tracing the letters in remembrance. Like you, I envisioned what the streets must have been like the day the towers fell.

    When I went, it was cold yet sunny.

    One of the best pictures I took wasn’t of the pools, of the names, of the building going up nearby – it was of a bouquet of artificial white and red roses with an American Flag attached. It was tucked into the chain link fence next to the site, where the clean up and construction continued to occur. That tiny simple bouquet screamed “Never Forget” more than the massive memorials next to which it sat.

    The friend I went with had been to Ground Zero before but never with someone who wanted to wander into the memorial space. He thanked me for wanting to go in as we left. I thanked him for taking me.

    You’re right – inside the memorial space, it is quiet. It is sacred, peaceful, and everything slows to a respectful pace. As it should be when we hold so many in remembrance. May we never forget.

  • Lance

    I haven’t seen that part of Manhattan since 9/11. I’ve been to NY 3 times in the past 10 years but I just havent gone. This post is too important and heartwrenching for me to pontificate further.

    Thanks for writing it

    Your niece is adorable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *