I’ve seen the 9/11 memorial before, but only during the day. When the sun’s out, you can see rainbows in the water and, aside from the fact that I love rainbows and am on a lifelong mission to find them whenever I can, it just adds to the beauty. I’m lucky enough not to have known anyone who died on 9/11, so I see the memorial how I imagine most people like me do: as a respectful tribute to a horror we can never fully comprehend. It’s not that it doesn’t affect me at all to see those huge, gaping holes, because after all, I’m a human being and an American, but it has to be an entirely different experience from someone whose entire life was personally turned upside down on that day.
At night it’s different, as so many things are once the sun sets. When it’s dark, the rushing water seems even more powerful. The glowing names appear to stand out even more. The moonlight–and building light–shining down causes the water to sparkle, but there are no rainbows to be found. And while I still realize I will never know the tragedy the victims’ families suffered, at night I find the magnitude pressing down with more force. Not to say, “How dare you view this memorial as a nice water feature when people’s lives were detoured and stopped altogether here,” but more to say, “It’s okay; being here now is all you can do.”
It’s probably not really saying anything. Magnitude tends not to speak. But I could hear it, so I’m glad I listened.