The September attacks - Memorial and Musuem

As the sun set on 10 September 2001, New Yorkers had no idea that less than 24 hours later their city would experience one of the biggest acts of terrorism in recent history. The first plane hit the first tower just before 8:50 am, at first people thought that this was a freak accident. But when the second plane hit the second tower at 9:10 am, it dawned on them that this was not an accident, this was a ruthlessly planned act of immeasurable violence.

The towers collapsed on itself and soon the once majestic towers were reduced to rubble, flattened and intermingled with all the pieces of the building, airplane parts. And as the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months and finally into years, the site remained like an open wound. A gaping open wound 16 acres large in the heart of New York.

Now plans for what will become the National September 11 Memorial & Museum has been revealed. The area will remember those victims that perished while in the building, the New York City Firefighters who arrived first on the scene and those victims of the two fatal airplanes which crashed into the building, as well as the two other planes - one crashing into the Pentagon building and one crashing in a field nearby. This however was not the first terrorist attack at The Towers, in 1993 a bomb exploded in the parking basement of the building killing six and injuring thousands, these victims will also be remembered at the Memorial & Museum.

Half of the 16 acres surrounding where the twin towers and other buildings of the World Trade Center stood are being developed into a business and commercial center, the other 8 acres will be the National Memorial & Museum.

The September 11 memorial consists of two square pools that sink into the footprints of the former twin towers. Water cascades down the walls of each reflecting pool, streaming over the rims of the central chasms and vanishing into the depths below. Between them lies the above ground portion of the museum, which houses exhibits demonstrating the tragic and heroic events that happened hand in hand on 9/11

The design of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum is the work of architects Michael Arad and Peter Walker. Alomh with more than 5,000 other contenders, Arad and Walker submitted their design, called  “Reflecting Absence,” to the 2003 competittion held to determine the look of the memorial.

The judging panel was a 13-person Memorial Jury, which included the architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. the curator of the Museum of Arts and Design, a 9/11 Memorial board member widowed in the attacks, a professor from the University of Massachusetts and the first deputy mayor of New York City, among others. The panel reached their decision in January 2004.

The North and South Memorial Pools lie inside the footprints of the former twin towers, roughly between them is the pavilion entrance to the museum, designed by the Norwegian firm Snøhetta. The architectural firm Aedas, working with Arad and Walker’s design team, helped construct the memorial and the rest of the underground museum.

From the museum’s glass atrium, visitors will descend into a vast concrete sanctuary to tour the the exhibits on display. Some are massive, like the Survivor’s Stairs that allowed many to escape that day and the Last Column covered with remembrances during the cleanup efforts. Others are tiny , such as trinkets donated by the victims’ families. Visitors can also see the loaction where the 1993 car bomb detonated and the slurry wall that held back the Hudson river on 9/11.

And although now young, the 400-plus oak trees planted in the plaza are expected to grow to form a canopy over the memorial, providing a sense of stillness and calm fundamental to the memorial’s goal, namely to allow visitors a place to mourn and reflect, to pay respects and find peace. A Callery pear tree dubbed the Survivor Tree, which managed to survive the collapse in close proximity to the World Trade Center, has been nursed back to full health and will also be on display.

In order to foster this urban forest, the design for the plaza features a suspended paving system. Between the roots of the trees and the museum, train station and other structures buried some 70 feet beneath the surface is a layer of loose soil, important for trees to thrive, rather than the compacted dirt commonly created during construction projects. Floating concrete tables give a safe walking surface around the plaza without squashing the dirt underneath and depriving the trees of access to nutrients and water. Thanks to this and other sustainability initiatives, the Memorial projects hopes to attain Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for sustainability.

The Memorial is set to be dedicated on 11 September 2011 and will be open for the public, with reserved passes, from the 12 September 2011. The museum is set to be opened in September 2012.

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