Prepare yourself before viewing the historical In Memoriam exhibition, particularly if you are with young children; the display is deeply moving, and can cause distress for some.
A forest of trees surround two square, sunken pools. These are the footprints of the two World Trade Centre towers that were destroyed in the devastating terrorist attack of 9/11: designed by Michael Arad of Handel Architects, who won a competition to create the memorial, they are a powerful commemoration of the nearly 3,000 who lost their lives in the greatest tragedy to hit the United States in modern memory.
The memorial was opened in 2011, one day after the tenth anniversary of the attacks. The trees are swamp white oaks, which will live and grow here for around 350 years; one, the Survivor Tree, is a callery pear which was found at Ground Zero having survived the devastation and was preserved for replanting. The huge twin pools are edged with bronze panels, inscribed with the name of every victim of the attacks in 2001 and of the earlier World Trade Center bombing in 1995.
Adjoining this tranquil plaza is a museum, dedicated to images, artifacts and oral histories of the people who were killed, and the impact on their families, friends and colleagues; both the immediate aftermath and longer term effects of 9/11 are thoughtfully examined. The deconstructivist design of the museum's pavilion references the collapse of the towers; also contained within are objects from Ground Zero including damaged emergency vehicles, and pieces of metal from the destroyed buildings.
Photographs of every victim are included alongside photographs of the wreckage and accounts of those who responded at the scene; the exhibits are carefully designed to provoke reflection and memory without distressing the families of victims and first responders. The museum opened in 2014, since when it has already seen over 4 million visitors; more than 22 million people have visited the memorial since 2011. This powerful site will not allow those who died to be forgotten, even as America's wounds slowly heal.
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