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Reflecting Absence


‘Reflecting Absence’ by Michael Arad has been chosen as the memorial to those who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11th. The piece uses a pair of reflective pools to mark the location of the towers’ footprints. While many are criticizing the piece, I quite like it. The minimalism is appropriate and the experience promises to entice a mood most appropriate for this memorial: somber.

Visitors begin their descent into the memorial by entering one of these buildings. This descent removes them from the sights and sounds of the city and immerses them in a cool darkness. As they gradually proceed, step by step, the sound of water falling grows louder, and more daylight filters in from below. At the bottom of their descent, they find themselves behind a thin curtain of water, staring out at an enormous pool that flows endlessly toward a central void that remains empty. A ribbon of names surrounds this pool and the enormity of this space and the multitude of names lining it underscore the vast scope of the tragedy that took place at this site. Standing there at the water's edge, looking at a pool of water that is flowing away into an abyss, a visitor to the site can sense that what is beyond this curtain of water and ribbon of names is inaccessible.

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