LOWER MANHATTAN, NY (PIX11)—The new 9/11 Memorial attempts to capture the sorrow New York and the country have felt over the terrorist attacks, while allowing us to move on. The presence of visitors allowed into the site for the first time raised issues of security, while also showing the intense effect the memorial had on them.
"Being right there where all those people perished, in the gut, it just hurts," Timothy Emtringer of Green Bay Wisconsin told PIX11 News. Another visitor said that the effect the memorial had on her was physical. "I'm shaking now, a little bit," she said.
The cascading waterfalls and reflecting pools built in the footprints of the Twin Towers are intended to honor every person killed on September 11th in New York, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania as well as those killed in the Trade Center attack in 1993.
"The design is amazing, especially the use of sound," visitor Paul Watkins told PIX11 News regarding the new memorial. "The sound of the water blocks out all the traffic noise and the construction noise, and you're really able to sit there and meditate about your loved one."
Watkins was the very first visitor to the memorial on the day it opened to the public, and as such was able to tell the memorial's designer, Michael Arad, in person about his impressions. Watkins came even though, as a relative of 9/11 victim Vladimir Tomasovich, he was able to come on Sunday when only victims' family members were allowed. Many family members returned on Monday, when it was less crowded.
"We were alone with her. It was more private," Neda Bolourchi said about being at the memorial next to her mother's name, carved in bronze along with nearly 3,000 others.
But at the site in greater numbers were people from the general public, including Timothy Emtringer, who had the gut-wrenching reaction to seeing it. He said he was really lucky to have gotten in.
"I ended up getting a ticket [last minute]. I kept talking, talking, talking to people, got a ticket and was the first person in there," he told PIX11 News. He was actually the first non-family member onto the site, even though the waiting list is a month long. He'd been able to score a ticket from the 9/11 Memorial Office from someone who had canceled their reservation.
Visitor Jessica Smith Delfino also managed to get the ticket of someone who couldn't show up, and found herself among the first people in, face to face with a group of dignitaries that included Mayor Michael Bloomberg, memorial designer Michael Arad and former vice president Dick Cheney.
The executive director of the memorial, Joe Daniels, told PIX11 News that his office expects people to be able to come at the last minute, and welcomes such visitors when extra tickets are available. As for security, he says that it's airtight for anyone entering the site, whether they ordered their free ticket month in advance, or got lucky at the last minute.
"Every single visitor who comes through the memorial will go through a full security screening," he said. "Of all the places in the world where screening is done, this is the place where it's necessary. I don't think our visitors mind, and we have to do it."