I have always thought that we were all attacked on September 11.
All Americans were not working in the buildings, or flying on those planes, or so close to the falling debris that we all had to run for our lives. But we turned a corner that morning and it forced us to leave normal far behind us. As a New Yorker, I felt that I would never be able to go back downtown because I would see the new real life there and I wanted my clock for this area of Manhattan to stop on September 10.
But my friend sings in a lovely choir that was giving a free outdoor concert last week on the plaza near the 9/11 Museum and I decided to go. It was a beautiful late summer, early fall night and the concert gave me an excuse to stay outside just a bit longer, enjoying the music. I finally felt, after 13 years, that I could visit what I still call Ground Zero and not be met with the terrible feeling of loss that had stopped me from going there until now.
The 9/11 museum is quite beautiful and the surrounding plaza is excellent, but for me, the key difference in this trip downtown was the time of day. The handful of times I had been there before, it was daylight and the whole space was filled with tourists and office workers coming and going, everyone snapping photos and eating snacks. In the evening though, especially on a Friday night, the space empties out considerably and the buildings are all lit after dark.
Everything is best seen at night. The names of the people lost in the attack are all lit from below and the water moving down the walls into the pool makes an amazing sound. The office buildings, including the new Freedom Tower, are also lit after dark and the effect is so peaceful, so quieting, so calm. It’s the stuff that makes the skyline so spectacular except here you are, and you can enjoy it close up.
Peace is an elusive thing. I wonder sometimes if we are only meant to experience it for a moment so it becomes our Holy Grail, the thing we keep looking for and never find. I know that as much as I prefer the day before September 11th to the days after, I am finally comfortable going there and I have found my own way to understand what happened and what happens next.
It’s time to go back downtown. I recommend that if you want to visit the site and the 9/11 Museum, go downtown in the evening. The museum closes at 9:00 p.m.
Photos by me