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Fodor's New York City 2014
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World Trade Center Site (Ground Zero)
World Trade Center Site (Ground Zero) Review
Thousands come each year to connect with events that unfolded here, and more than a decade later visitors at last have an official memorial to see in addition to the site itself. On September 11, 2001, terrorist hijackers steered two jets into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers, setting them ablaze and causing their collapse, killing 2,753 people and injuring countless others. The 16 acres of fenced-in rubble and debris that slowly evolved into a construction zone quickly became a memorial unto itself, a place where visitors and those who lost loved ones could mourn and reflect on what was the single most deadly foreign attack to happen on American soil.
The memorial plaza will be bordered by four distinct new skyscrapers: the 1,776-foot World Trade Center One (the former "Freedom Tower"), and Towers 2, 3, 4 all designed by famous architects. The site will also include a performing arts center designed by Frank Gehry and a transportation hub designed by Santiago Calatrava. At this writing, Tower 1 is scheduled to be open in 2014 (Tower 4 opened in late 2013), but escalating costs and construction issues may cause further delays. To get an up-to-date idea of what the site will look like, visit the 9/11 Preview Site, located at 20 Vesey Street and open daily.
National 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Finished just in time for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, this somber work, designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker, reflects none of the setbacks and complications to the building process that have arisen in the years since the tragedy. Central to the memorial and museum are recessed, 30-foot waterfalls that sit on the footprint where the Twin Towers once stood. Every minute, some 60,000 gallons of water cascades down the sides and then down into smaller square holes in the center of the pools. The pools are each nearly an acre in size, and they are said to be the largest man-made waterfalls in North America.
Edging the Memorial pools at the plaza level are bronze panels inscribed with the names of the 2,983 people who were killed in the terror attacks at the World Trade Center site, in Flight 93's crash in Pennsylvania, at the Pentagon, and the six people who died in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Because the names are arranged by affiliation rather than alphabetically, it can be difficult to locate particular names—visit the memorial's website or use the on-site kiosks to find out where to find a particular name. At night, the names are illuminated by lights shining up from underneath the panels. Visitors are allowed to place tribute items in front of the Memorial pools as well as on the name panels.
In the plaza are more than 400 swamp white-oak trees harvested from within a 500-mile radius of the site, as well as from Pennsylvania and near Washington, D.C. There's also a single Callery pear tree known as the "survivor tree," which was revived and replanted here after being damaged during the 9/11 attacks.
Until the construction going on throughout the rest of the World Trade Center site is finished, a visit to the memorial requires dealing with strict security, including a trip through airportlike scanners. No large bags are allowed, there's no bag storage, and no public restrooms, either. It's best to book a free, timed ticket online before your visit, but at low-traffic times stand-by tickets may also be available, both at the site and from the Preview Site (90 Vesey Street) and the visitor center (90 West Street).
To one side of the reflecting pools is the glass-covered atrium for the Memorial Museum, a project that has experienced several delays in opening. The museum, which will descend some 70 feet down to the bedrock the Twin Towers were built on, will feature a permanent collection of donated artifacts, memorabilia, photographs, and various recordings, as well as an exhibition that takes visitors through the history of events leading up to the attack and its aftermath. There's also a memorial wall with portraits of those who died, pieces of the Towers' structural columns and foundation, and remnants of the "Survivors Stairs," which allowed hundreds of people to escape the buildings. Entry at northeast corner of Albany and Greenwich Sts., 10006. 212/266–5211 for reservation help. www.911memorial.org. Free (with timed ticket obtained in advance). Memorial: early Mar.–early Oct., daily 10–8; early Oct.–early Mar., daily 10–6 (daily 10–8 for wks around Thanksgiving and Christmas; last entry an hr before closing); Visitor center: early Mar.–early Oct., daily 10–8:30; early Oct.–early Mar., daily 10–7 (daily 10–8:30 for wks around Thanksgiving and Christmas). Subway: 1, N, or R to Rector St.; 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z to Fulton St.–Broadway-Nassau; E to World Trade Center/Church St.
- Address: Between Trinity and West Sts. and Vesey and Liberty Sts., Financial District, New York, NY 10281 | Map It
- Hours: Preview Site: early Mar.–early Oct., daily 9–7:30; early Oct.–early Mar., daily 9–7 (daily 9–7:30 wks of Thanksgiving and Christmas)
- Website: www.wtc.com
- Subway: R to Rector St.; 2,3,4,5, A, C, J, Z ,to Fulton St./Broadway; E to World Trade Center/Church St.
- Location: Financial District
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