With the memorial and tower complete, I loaded up some b&w film and captured the images you see above. Below is an account of my experience.
Still several blocks from ground zero, I asked my driver to go ahead and let me out, giving me some time to think and approach the site at my own pace. After several hundred yards and even more steps I found myself in a courtyard, complete with official "9/11 Memorial" signs directing visitors towards restrooms or ticket offices for the museum. It all seemed so civil yet here I was, 14yrs after that September morning in high school, after my time in the Marines, after a tour in Iraq, post college and marriage. "I have a new life now," I thought. But finally standing there and considering it all, it seemed of little consolation. I suddenly felt small again, hurt, vulnerable, like the blow had just been struck.
I continued circling the place where each tower had once stood, touching the names now cut into it's metal perimeter, trying to grasp what each person must have felt on that day. Below the names cascaded sheets of water down black granite, towards and infinitely deep void, a place where the destination cannot be seen no matter the angle. And so it is well that it cannot be seen - the beyond, the separation between this life and the next, where it ends or begins. Though we know they are not gone forever, we know something is missing, that they the lost are no longer here with us as they once were.
I've seen memorials all over the world - marking sites of battle, commemorating those who gave their lives for a cause, for a country, for an idea. But this, the 9/11 memorial was different. It did not seek to console, to offer some false sense of hope or shy away from the horror of that day. It is fully terrible, heartbreaking, a reminder of what is so easily forgotten and rarely considered: that this life, our time on earth is something sacred, something we should not take lightly.