You descend into the museum on a long ramp, sloped so gradually that you barely feel your steps gathering momentum. It’s as if you’re gently being pulled into orbit. Then you walk out onto an underground balcony overlooking the museum floor, some 40 feet below, and gaze out into a vast, nearly empty space punctuated by the Last Column—the final piece of steel hauled away from Ground Zero during cleanup. Weighing 60 tons and standing nearly 40 feet high, it’s still covered in spray-painted messages, tributes to the dead left by those who did the work. (“My brothers, you ran into hell,” one reads.) You get an overwhelming sense of absence and awe. There may be no public space more cavernous in New York City, and the vista was designed to preserve the dizzying experience of looking into the gaping pit left when the cleanup was complete in the spring of 2002.
To your left is the Slurry Wall, a 3-foot-thick concrete barrier studded with iron pilings that once girded the foundations of the site and managed to hold even after the towers fell. The wall still seems both immovable and fragile. It’s what keeps the Hudson River from drowning this space, which is an unprecedented hybrid of archaeological site, cathedral, and tourist attraction.
It’s a beautifully-written article about a haunting and beautiful space. I hope to be able to visit myself someday.