As I had family in town at the end of March, we visited the recently opened 9/11 Memorial. The site being judged uniquely Sacred, the decision was quickly made not to attempt to build anew on top of it, but rather to preserve it in a condition as much as possible as that which it enjoyed when the morning of 9/11 dawned. For being an expanse of Sacred Land, there are a number of fascinating Paganesque features about the site, including The Wells: the massive footprints where once stood the Twin Towers, resembling now deep, rectangular reflecting pools dug into the Earth. In sort of the way that cauldrons symbolize the downward-drawing meditation, the Wells pull the attention down into the meditative Heart of the Earth; lined with handsome black marble, the cleansing Element of Water washes over them in a metaphoric display of the passage of Time. The names of those who died are engraved along the rims; the feng shui-like effect of human-made waterfalls encourages memory and reflection, ennobling emotional response: the attributes of the West, governed by the Powers of Water.
A note: there is an understandable desire to contribute to the memorialization of the site by tossing handfuls of coins into the Wells (I take it this must come from that Wishing Well thing, although it may ultimately have to do with that Celtic tendency to toss valuables into bodies of water, as offerings to the Gods). While a sincere gesture, please do not do this. The coins can interfere with the water’s circulation; due to the size of the pools, they are devilishly difficult to retrieve; and too many sparkling coins laying about the bottom will corrupt the dignified austerity of the scene. Also, they have security personnel there who will yell at you (like they did to this one lady), that it is NOT allowed to toss coins into the Wells. So please don’t.
The Survivor Tree: despite the fact that the 9/11 site has been planted with hundreds of swamp white oaks, none of the trees had begun to bud yet, on this particular overcast, chilly day in late March- except for one tree that had already burst into full bloom, the remarkable Survivor Tree. A callery pear tree originally planted in the 1970s, it was discovered during the site’s excavation in October 2001, badly burned, its roots snapped, having been demolished by the falling Towers to a mere eight feet- but it was alive, the only thing in the site to have remained so. Taken to a nursery in the Bronx, it was carefully tended, and- despite later being uprooted during a storm- it was replanted at the 9/11 site in December 2010, already re-grown to a height of 30 feet. There it lives now, firmly cabled in place to the ground, but clearly thriving and blooming ahead of its mates. Time and again since, inspiration for resilience and fortitude has been called into the Survivor Tree, as a symbol for the resistance to tragedy and for the renewing hope of new life and the future. If anywhere in Manhattan lies a tree into which a sense of the Sacred has been imbued, it must be the Survivor Tree of 9/11.
The Tridents: then there are what are called The Tridents- massive pieces of the arch-motif facade employed on the ground-floor of the Twin Towers, intended to direct the attention upwards along the Towers into the sky, to “lift” the Towers out of their heavy, block-like base, giving them an airy sense of ascension (literally, it appeared, into the clouds). Also pulled intact out of mountains of wreckage and rubble, the Tridents comprise the most notable feature of the 9/11 Museum (so large, the museum was constructed around them). Fascinatingly calling to mind the emblem of Poseidon, the two reinforce the idea of aquatic healing and renewal already prevalent, as well as emphasize the Olympian scale of the Towers, constructed in what seems now a time of brash innocence. Of course, the Towers now are gone, that innocence assaulted; what remains is a site of Sacred Land, born out of the pain of grief and remembrance, its features memorialized into icons and holy relics.