One thing I wanted to do when I was in New York City last month was visit the National September 11 Memorial, which opened in 2011. I made reservations for myself and a group of friends and it was literally our first destination once we all arrived at the hotel.
The weather was appropriately dark and drizzly. As the four of us somberly made our way to Ground Zero and then through the security stations, we really had no idea how stunning (in so many ways) the memorial would be.
I mean, it’s supposed to be huge, because it’s set in the footprints of the Twin Towers, and they were huge. That said, the loss of that day–which I believe can’t be felt by anyone who wasn’t in the area at the time or who doesn’t have a direct connection to the tragedy, no matter how “perfectly” the memorial represents it–is truly shocking and sobering all over again when visiting the site.
The two pools are surrounded by bronze plates engraved with the names of the 2977 people who killed in the September 11 attacks in New York City, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and the names of six victims who were killed in the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
There are trees throughout the plaza, including the Survivor Tree, which was found in the rubble of the World Trade Center site a month after the attacks. The Survivor Tree had been a part of the complex since the 1970s and, after it was taken to a local nursery, replanted, and cared for, it actually survived the trauma and is now a centerpiece of the memorial.
The memorial pools are also in the shadow of the new 1 WTC, or Freedom Tower. It was inspiring to see the progress on the building when we were there.
Though the area was crawling with visitors that day, the mood was somber and very quiet, all except for various children–kids who hadn’t even been born yet on 9/11/01–who were running around, oblivious to the significance of where they were.
After I had made our reservations, I checked out the memorial on the website. When I found information about locating names, I had decided that I would search for some of the victims that had become household names due to their repeated appearance in countless news reports and tribute shows because I didn’t have any personal connections to the events of that day.
When I set foot on site at the memorial, however, and saw the names of all of the victims in front of me, it occurred to me that the vast majority of them weren’t remembered by the general public, and that perhaps instead of thinking about those who were the subjects of news stories, documentaries, and books when the anniversary rolled around this year, I should learn something about a couple of the victims who are only remembered by family and friends.
Robert William McPadden, whose dad had been a New York fire lieutenant, had a Master’s degree in criminal justice and was a relatively new firefighter at Engine Company 23. He left behind his wife, Kate.
Robert Edward Evans, also a firefighter, was given the nickname “Jerry Lewis” by his friends because he was a practical joker. He was 36 years old when he died, leaving the North Tower.
Shannon Marie Fava had been married to her husband Frank just shy of seven years on 9/11/01. They met when she was eighteen years old and she worked as an assistant broker at Cantor Fitzgerald. Frank and Shannon had a young son, Joseph Anthony, who was three at the time of the attacks.
Most people felt an extreme sense of helplessness after 9/11. Looking up the stories behind a few the names on the memorial is going to be my new tradition on this, our National Day of Remembrance. I challenge you to do the same. All you have to do is go to the website’s Memorial Guide and scroll down a little bit. On the bottom left of the screen you can click on North Pool or South Pool for a name listing. After that, pick a couple out and Google them. That’s it. It’s such a small task but so important, and the families appreciate any interest in their lost loved ones. THIS is something anyone can do.
Lastly, I encourage you to visit the National September 11 Memorial the next time you’re in New York City. It’s free to visit but reservations are needed for crowd control and security purposes.
May their memories be for a blessing.