Ten years ago, I walked out of the subway at the World Trade Center and found myself in a war zone. I remember people stunned--horrified--at the gaping holes in the towers. I remember firefighters and police rushing to respond. I remember people crying in the streets, others fleeing on foot.
This past Sunday, new images emerged from the World Trade Center. Where the towers once stood and then, unthinkably, did not, a memorial now honors the nearly 3,000 lives taken from us too soon. On Sunday, I walked onto the Memorial with family members of those who were killed and I saw them run their fingers over the names of their loved ones, now permanently inscribed in bronze, tracing them in wax on paper so they could bring them home. I saw some cry, and others smile. They left notes, pictures, and flowers for those they were there to honor. Children played in the grassy area known as the Memorial glade.
Ten years do not erase our memories of what happened and the Memorial cannot undo the pain of families, friends and ordinary Americans whose hearts were broken on that terrible day. But there is an undeniable significance to the tenth anniversary and an equally undeniable sense of hope at seeing the progress at the World Trade Center site. Where there was so much death, there is new life. Hundreds of oak trees now grow on the Memorial plaza. Waterfalls offer a comforting hush over the bustling city noise. Soaring towers are rising into the sky.
On the anniversary, I was approached by a number of families who expressed their gratitude to all of the men and women who ensured that this memorial would open on the 10-year anniversary. They understood that there were so many who played a part in creating a lasting tribute for their loved ones. From the architects and planners, to the carpenters and electricians: for all of us, this has been much more than a job. Thanks to the hard work of so many, these families have a lasting place of remembrance.
Now, so does the world. We opened to the public one day after the ceremony for families, on September 12, 2011. Thousands of people from 46 of the United States and more than 30 countries came to pay their respects. I joined Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, chairman of the 9/11 Memorial, and victims' family members who serve on our board of directors to welcome the public to the World Trade Center for the first time in ten years. People were awed by the Memorial's beautiful and poignant design, and I believe it will resonate just as deeply years from now as it does today.
For the last decade, people have walked the perimeter of the World Trade Center site and stolen glances through construction fences. Now, it has been reclaimed as a place for the public. People of all economic status, color, and political stripe are able to stand side by side on the hallowed ground where the Twin Towers once stood, tracing the name of a victim with their fingers, coming together again in the spirit of compassion we all remember from after 9/11. Through our worst times, New York City and the United States have endured because of the spirit of our people.
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