“Here, grief is palpable,” said Pope Francis when he visited the National September 11 Memorial and Museum six years ago.
“A Witness to Peace: A Multi-Religious Gathering With Pope Francis” on Sept. 25, 2015, began with a Welcome of the Holy Father by Cardinal Dolan, who accompanied the pope to the solemn service.
Pope Francis read the same prayer Pope Benedict XVI recited when he visited Ground Zero in April 2008, a prayer that includes those who died the same day at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and near Shanksville, Pa.
“This place of death became a place of life too,” the pope said in his address, “a place of saved lives, a hymn to the triumph of life over the prophets of destruction and death, to goodness over evil, to reconciliation and unity over hatred and division.”
Last week, on a sunny, blue sky Sept. 3—weather eerily similar to the day the Twin Towers were felled two decades ago—CNY spoke with several people paying their respects at the outdoor reflecting pools of the 9/11 Memorial where the North Tower and South Tower, respectively, once stood.
The sound of the rush of the water of the two square, below ground reflecting pools was relaxing and rejuvenating as it gently reverberated throughout the serene site.
The Kane family of the Diocese of Boise, Idaho, were visiting the reflecting pool that represented the South Tower.
Sean Kane, 38, said he last visited the memorial 10 years ago. Accompanying him there last Friday was his wife, Andrea, 38, and their three children, all of whom belong to Holy Apostles parish in Meridian, Idaho. With them was his sister-in-law, Tricia Kane, 30, who with her husband Joel Kane, attends St. Paul the Apostle parish in Manhattan.
Sean Kane said he and his wife carefully explained to their children, daughters Lia, 9, and Cori, 6, and son Sam, 3, that “someone wanted to hurt our country.”
What “made it real for them,” he said, were the “names along the side.” He was referring to those who perished whose names are inscribed on parapets that edge the memorial pools.
Andrea Kane, who is principal of St. Ignatius School in Meridian, said, “There are a lot of profound lessons here.”
As a Catholic educator, she explained the importance of “our faith, drawing us to unity” at a time in the nation when unity is lacking. “I see parallels within the pandemic, too,” she said, “calling us to come together and have a common, shared vision and mission—and we did that in 9/11. We came together as a country.”
It is remarkable to Tricia Kane that 20 years have passed since that tragic day. Although she was 10 years old and lived in Ohio then, she “very vividly” remembers details of the day.
She shared her gratitude that her paternal uncle who worked in one of the towers of the World Trade Center “forgot his lunch that morning and he happened to go back for his lunch” causing him to be late for work. “As he came out of the subway, people were just yelling, ‘Go, go, go.’”
Also, a cousin of her father’s whose office was on the side of the Pentagon that was also struck by terrorists that day, happened to be on the other side of the building at the time.
“It’s powerful,” she said of the 9/11 Memorial.
Ben Taylor, 41, a software engineer from Denver, was gathered with family in the vicinity of the reflecting pool that represents the South Tower near a Callery pear tree that became known as the “Survivor Tree” after it endured the 9/11 terror attacks at the World Trade Center. It stands as a reminder of resilience, survival and rebirth.
The last time Taylor was near the 9/11 site was on another visit to New York 19 years ago, during the aftermath where he observed the Ground Zero demolition from behind a construction fence.
“This memorial is incredible,” he said. “I never would have thought for a second that it would be this grand. You see the footprints of the buildings.”
Taylor described the reflecting pools, complete with their tranquil flow of water, as “very peaceful” and “a great tribute.”
“The way they put this together was very thoughtfully done,” he added of the general atmosphere of the 9/11 Memorial. “It’s humbling.”
Jorge and Lidia Cerchiara of Cape Canaveral, Fla., had just emerged from the 9/11 Museum when they spoke with CNY near the reflecting pool that represents the North Tower.
Both were visibly moved by the solemness they had witnessed inside the museum, and they shared their sentiments.
“It’s very subtle,” Jorge Cerchiara, 65, said.
“It was very overwhelming, very moving; I just wanted to cry,” said Lidia Cerchiara, 63. The display of photos inside the museum of those who perished on 9/11 was almost too much for her to bear. “How sad it is to see their faces,” she said.
In contrast, the cascading water from the reflecting pool was soothing to her husband. “The water, that doesn’t have an end, is the best representation of the lost lives,” Jorge Cerchiara said.
The Cerchiaras, both of whom are retired, were born in Argentina. Although they had been to New York before, last week was the first time they visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. “It was long overdue,” Jorge Cerchiara said.
Peering into the reflecting pool that represents the North Tower were Amit and Neha Pandey and their 10-month-old son Yuvan, of Los Angeles.
“We came all the way from L.A. to visit this memorial site,” said Amit Pandey, 34. It was important, he said, to “pay some respect to these people.”
He himself has done so two other times: the first, in 2010 and, most recently, five years ago. The third time around, watching the water cascade down the walls still “mesmerizes” him, Pandey said. He also marveled at the magnitude of the design and architecture of the memorial.
The husband and wife are originally from Mumbai, India, and both recalled learning about the 9/11 attacks when they were children there.
It was important to the Pandeys that their young son accompany them to the site. “He was born here” in the United States, Neha Pandey said. “He should know everything about the history.”