The 9/11 Memorial: New York City - A Moving Experience
Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart
They are just random names engraved into a plaque...Harry A. Raines, Taimour Firaz Khan, Sophia B. Addo, Richard John Kelly Jr., Edward James Day, John Daniel Marshall...and 2,971 more.
To the many tourists passing them by, especially I thought, by the small group of older Asian women laughing and giggling about some joke in a language I did not understand, the names probably mean nothing.
But they should.
Every person in North America, check that, every person who lives in a country free from strife, free from terrorism and with the freedom that we as Canadians and our friends to the south, Americans, have forever taken for granted, should always and forever remember the names on these plaques, the names of those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
Standing at the 9/11 Memorial was for me incredibly moving. Like many, I recall watching the horror of that day unfold on TV and of course in fascinating documentary after documentary after that, but it wasn't until I stood at Ground Zero, looking up at the empty sky where the two towers stood and then into the deep and somewhat dark abyss of the pools of cascading water (designed that way on purpose I suspect) that were their foundations, and also up at the new One World Trade Centre - the Freedom Tower - that I could fully grasp and comprehend what the citizens of New York went through that day and what incredible horror and impending doom those in the buildings who survived the initial impacts and the first responders who went to rescue them, must have felt. It brought tears to my eyes. It brought tears to my wife's eyes. It is bringing tears to my eyes again as I write this.
The literature for the 9/11 Memorial states that it is a place for "remembrance and quiet reflection", yet in addition to the laughing Asian ladies, I was astonished at how many people were not respecting, or were oblivious to this, at how many people seemed to be there just because it was another one of the many tourist sites in New York to knock off their list, or on their bus tour...to have their photos taken with the Memorial and the new tower as a backdrop, smiling and laughing all the while. I just didn't get that.
Fortunately, I think those people were in the minority, and when I saw an elderly lady doing a rubbing of a name, a NYPD fireman in his dress blues standing with friends and family in front of one of the panels honoring his fallen comrades and a mother with her young daughter (who would not have even been born when the attacks happened) standing silently, almost as if in prayer, at one corner of the north pool, my faith in those who came to see the memorial AND properly honour the fallen, was restored.
Many years ago - 1991 - in travelling past New York city, I had the opportunity to take a black and white picture that many of you have seen here on my site and that some of you may have on your walls at home. It is a shot of the New York skyline from Liberty Park in New Jersey, with a sculpture of a U.S. soldier (Korean War era) rescuing a prisoner of war. While I took this photo in 1991, the image of the soldier, rescuing a fellow human being from a tragic situation, with the Twin Towers in the background, suddenly had much more meaning to it in 2012, than it did when it was a simple snapshot back in 1991, especially after the U.S., in response to the attacks, began the war with Iraq.
While I do not want to get into any political argument here as to whether that decision was right or wrong, or the pros and cons of how it was executed, standing at Ground Zero today, I can certainly understand WHY the war that continues today was initiated. I can only imagine the fury on that day of New Yorkers, those in Washington D.C., and Americans across the country and their demand for swift and ultimate justice and punishment on those responsible.
I know that the justice has not been swift, and that the war on terror, sadly, will need to wage on, despite the death of Bin Laden and many of his Al Queda partners in crime. But if everyone, everywhere, remembers 9/11 and the people who made the ultimate sacrifice - those whose names are randomly engraved on a series of simple plaques - and if the history books and educational curriculum across the world can properly teach and document what happened and why and the consequences, then perhaps everyone here in North America and around the world can begin to treat people of other races, nationalities, and religious beliefs like we should all be treated, as fellow human beings on this tiny planet. If that can happen, then perhaps there is some hope that future generations in all countries can live without the threat of terrorism or war and at peace with one another.
I am also now very honoured to have visited the Memorial in person to pay my respects and to capture some new images that I hope will also have meaning to those that view them.
The actual 9/11 Memorial Museum is slated to open in 2014 and given how I felt today, I am pretty sure that I will find a way to get back to New York City sometime in the near future to visit it when it is open.
May we never forget.
I am really proud to have known you as a small boy and admire you as a grown up for your article. It shows charisma and your photos are beautiful Harrah to you
Thank you Chris, beautifully put. What an amazing day it must have been for you and Caroline to experience together. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Chris - I am so proud to know the man who wrote this beautiful article. I haven't seen the Memorial yet, but I have thought about it many times, and your words and photos brought it to me in what felt like a very personal way.
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