These 9/11 Heroes Keep the Memorials Ready for Visitors
See what they do, and how you can be a part of maintaining the memorials for generations to come.
We often hear the word "hero" when we talk about September 11: the heroes who lost their lives in the 2001 terrorist attack, the first responders who risked, and in many cases, sacrificed their lives to try and save others. But one group of heroes we don't often hear about are the people who make sure that the memorials to that awful day are maintained and ready for victims families and other visitors to come and reflect.
Occupying eight of the 16 acres at the World Trade Center, the memorial is free and open to the public daily. The nearly 3,000 names of the men, women and children who died in the terrorist attacks of February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001 are inscribed on bronze parapets surrounding twin memorial pools, fed by two waterfalls, 10 and 30 feet high. According to the memorial website, the design "provides a direct realtionship between the visitor, the names and the water, allowing for a feeling of quiet reverence."
Keeping the pools and waterfalls clean and clear helps maintain that special ambiance. That job is given to a select group of workers, who work through the night, five days a week. Check it out:
Chief engineer Anthony Locasto says that for him and his crew, maintaining the waterfalls and pools isn't work, it's a sacred honor. "I think it's so important that the family members have a beautiful place to reflect. Knowing that I'm one of the people that maintains this beautiful place to the highest level he possibly can, it's just the greatest feeling in the world."
The National Park Service maintains the memorial, which is open daily, with the help of a group of dedicated volunteers. And it takes that "village," since the memorial is an entire landscape of 2,200 acres, including the Memorial Plaza and Wall of Names, a Visitor Center, the Tower of Voices, overlooks, and 40 memorial groves, one for each of the passengers and crew.
Volunteers from the group Friends of Flight 93 do a lot of the maintenance work:
- Tree planting: each spring (usually the last weekend of April) 500 volunteers come together for a 2-day event to plant trees on the property which is part of a reclaimed strip mine. As they describe it, planting trees heals the landscape, creates new wildlife habitats and a living memorial. So far 116,000 native seedlings have been planted; the goal is 150,000 trees. Volunteers say it's immensely rewarding:
- Invasive species removal: at the same time of planting, a "special forces" team removes invasive trees and other plants that threaten native species, including the new seedlings.
- Wall washing: each spring a small group of Friends gather, and under the supervision of the National Park Service Curator, wash the winter dirt from the white marble Wall of Names.
Want to get involved? Join Friends of Flight 93 by clicking here .
The memorial is a permanent outdoor memorial, with 184 illuminated benches with small reflecting pools underneath, one for each of the people who died in the terrorist attack there. A wall along the edge of the Memorial begins at a height of 3 inches and rises to 71 inches, the ages of the youngest and oldest victims. It's open 7 days a week.
As with the other memorials, Deparment of Interior grants help fund maintenance under the 9/11 Memorial Act. But you can also donate to help maintain the Pentagon memorial by clicking here.