Yesterday I arrived in New York City to attend the DurbanWatch conference today, but I had other plans for my first day in Manhattan.  Earlier this week, I got a press pass to see the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, the first time since 1974 that I had seen what had been the original World Trade Center Plaza.  I couldn’t get a regular visitor pass, as the wait time for a reservation has stretched out to two months.  The memorial does have standby lines, but they want to keep the grounds from getting too crowded for people to appreciate the memorial’s worth, and obviously to reflect the ongoing security concerns.

When I arrived late in the afternoon, a ceremony had already begun adjacent to the North Pool.  I didn’t find out until it was nearly over that the city was honoring Marine Sergeant Dakota Meyer, the first living Marine to receive the Medal of Honor since Vietnam.  I shot some video of the ceremony — as close as I could get to it — and near the end of this video, you’ll see Sgt. Meyer walking past me as the ceremony ends.  Music was provided by the NYPD’s piper and drum corps:

The best way to recall the visit is through a few of the pictures I took.  I took this immediately on entering the grounds, and it gives a nice view of the green area, and a view of the new Freedom Tower (now officially called 1 World Trade Center).  While the grounds are peaceful, they are not all that quiet — the sound of the rushing water in the North and South Pools is significant, and of course heavy construction continues around the memorial.  The crowd in the background is the ceremony honoring Sgt. Meyer.

This is a view of the South Pool.  The two are identical, except for the names etched along the railing. It is not difficult to recall that thousands of people lost their lives at this site, and the pool was, I think, a well-designed memorial.

Another view of the South Pool, with the Freedom Tower in the background.

As part of Project 2996 two years ago, I wrote about Cesar Garcia, one of those lost on 9/11.  The website for the memorial has a listing of each name and the panel where it can be found.  Be sure to read again about Cesar.  I had also written about Ysidro Hidalgo-Tejada in 2006, but could not find him listed among the names; it may have been listed differently.

This is intended to be a comprehensive 9/11 memorial, as can be seen in this photo, where the names of those lost at the Pentagon are listed.

The section dedicated to the first responders drew the most visitors yesterday, perhaps because of the number of police and firefighters present for the ceremony earlier — or perhaps because their courage and dedication in charging into the buildings will never be forgotten.

I had not heard that the memorial included those who lost their lives in the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, but was touched to see that they have been properly memorialized as well.

The etchings of the names make it easy to put flags and small flowers into the railings.  I saw a number of these yesterday, as well as people taking rubbings of the name of a family member, friend, or colleague.

Always remember.  Never forget.

Update: Fixed Sgt. Meyer’s name above.  Also, I forgot to mention how impressed I was that the memorial remembers the unborn children murdered by the terrorists; you can see this in the picture of the 1993 victims’ memorial above, and the phrase “and her unborn child” appears throughout the memorial.  Terribly sad, but they deserve a remembrance of the lives they never had a chance to live.