Free in NYC: Visiting the National September 11 Memorial

The National 9/11 Memorial is now open to the public, allowing visitors to pay tribute to the victims of the terror attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993.

WTC Sept 11 Memorial in NYC 10

Located in the footprint of the World Trade Center, this touching memorial honors nearly 3,000 people that died in the attacks on Lower Manhattan, Flight 93 and the Pentagon.

Passes are free and available online through a simple registration system.

WTC Sept 11 Memorial in NYC 04

Reserving tickets

While admission to the 9/11 Memorial is free, an advance reservation is required. Visit the 9/11 Memorial Reservation System to secure your passes. The website includes special instructions for families of 9/11 victims (who have access to specially reserved passes) and groups of 16 or more.

When the memorial first opened in September, coinciding with the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, tickets were hard to come by. The New York Times reported that passes for the first week in September were already sold out in July.

However, I was able to reserve four passes the night before a Saturday visit in early October. I’m sure it helped that my visit came during a holiday (Yom Kippur); in fact, there was no line at the gate and the crowd was light inside of the memorial.

WTC Sept 11 Memorial in NYC 01

Tribute to the victims

The centerpiece of the 9/11 Memorial is a set of reflecting pools built in the footprints of the World Trade Center.

Man-made waterfalls frame these massive squares and shimmer in the light reflected from nearby office buildings. Similar to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, the names of every victim are engraved on bronze panels surrounding the pools.

Reading the names of each victim– and realizing how many people died– puts a human face on this national tragedy. The 9/11 Memorial also commemorates the unborn children of 9/11 victims; several names are followed by phrase “and her unborn child.”

Visitors are encouraged to place tribute items besides the names on the bronze wall or on the ground. Items must be smaller than 8”x17”x19” and should not be thrown into the reflecting pools.

WTC Sept 11 Memorial in NYC 03

Limited facilities

Designed by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker, the memorial features a grassy area with benches for visitors who want to sit and reflect. However, that’s about the only feature that makes for a comfortable visitor experience.

Currently there are no restrooms on site, and you won’t be able to purchase a refreshment on a hot day. The museum, which is not yet open, may address these needs.

WTC Sept 11 Memorial in NYC 02

Photos of the 9/11 Memorial

Make sure to bring a camera when visiting the memorial, as you’ll want to capture the contrast between the buzz (and constant construction) of the outside city and the serenity within the memorial’s walls.

The following are original photos taken at the 9/11 Memorial during my visit in early October 2011.

WTC Sept 11 Memorial in NYC 13

WTC Sept 11 Memorial in NYC 12

WTC Sept 11 Memorial in NYC 08

WTC Sept 11 Memorial in NYC 11

WTC Sept 11 Memorial in NYC 07

WTC Sept 11 Memorial in NYC 05

For more information

Before heading to the memorial, visit the 9/11 Memorial website to learn more about reservations and security regulations.

Have you visited the 9/11 memorial?

Share your tips with other visitors by leaving a comment below! If you are reading this post via an email subscription, make sure to click on to leave your comment.

About Jake Semmel

I'm a blogger and round the world traveler. I'm always on the lookout for new places to scuba dive, hike and ski.