Ten years after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, the National 9/11 Memorial will be unveiled Sunday in a private ceremony for family members of people who died in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa.
The memorial, located at Ground Zero, features two majestic waterfalls in the footprints of the Twin Towers and a peaceful plaza of trees and benches. Long bronze plinths inscribed with the names of the 2,977 victims of the 9/11 attacks, as well as the six people killed in the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, line the quadrangles of the waterfalls. The adjacent 9/11 Museum will open in September 2012.
A solemn ceremony beginning at 8:30am Sunday will mark the tenth anniversary of New York’s darkest day. After the first moment of silence, family members will commence reading the names of all the victims at 8:46am, the moment American Airlines Flight 11 collided with the WTC’s north tower. President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush and handful of other speakers will offer poems and eulogies for the victims.
“This ceremony is for the reading of the names of the dead [from the Twin Towers], and for the first time, reading the names of those who died at the Pentagon and Flight 93. It is a symbol of this country’s obligation to never forget, and it’s a privilege for everyone who has worked on the memorial,” said Joe Daniels, President and CEO of the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum, in a press conference Thursday.
“This dedication is all about the family members, and there’s no more special way to dedicate the memorial than for the families to hear the sound of the water falling, find the name of their loved one and place their hand on that name,” he continued.
Unlike any other memorial in the country, the names inscribed in the World Trade Center footprints are arranged in adjacent order, rather than alphabetically. In planning for the memorial, officials fielded 1,200 “adjacency requests” from family members of the victims, asking that specific names appear in proximity to others to reflect the victims’ relationships. Daniels offered one example of a request from Abby Ross, whose father Richard Barry Ross perished on American Airlines Flight 11. Horrifically, Abby Ross’ best friend Stacey Leigh Sanders worked in the north tower, on the floors crushed by the impact of the Flight 11 jet. Both Richard Ross and Sanders died instantly—and on the memorial, their names are next to one another in perpetuity.
The 9/11 Memorial opens to the public on Monday, September 12. Visitors must reserve a free timed ticket on the Memorial’s Web site (911memorial.org).