As the nation prepares to remember the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks a decade after they occurred, new national memorials are getting set to open at two of the three attack sites and a ceremony for victims' families is being planned at the third. All three memorials are meant to be places where the victims can be remembered and visitors can learn about and reflect on the attacks that changed the world.
World Trade Center Memorial
Victims' families will be the first visitors to the new World Trade Center Memorial opening on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, and the general public will be able to visit the site beginning Sept. 12.
The memorial, called "Reflecting Absence," features waterfalls cascading into two reflecting pools in the footprints of the Twin Towers. Each pool is about an acre, and the two water features are the largest man-made waterfalls in North America, according to the memorial's website. Bronze panels surround the edges of each pool, and the names of the nearly 3,000 people to die in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001, plus the six people who died in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, are cut into the panels. At night, lights will shine up from the pools, illuminating both the water and the victims' names. Swamp white oaks, some of which were harvested from near the other attack sites, will surround the pools. This memorial is set to take up about half of the 16-acre World Trade Center site.
A museum featuring artifacts and stories from the attacks on the World Trade Center is scheduled to open in September 2012. Most of the museum will be underground, but an atrium entrance built around two tridents featured in the design of the Twin Towers and recovered from the site will be at ground level. Work on the museum has already started.
The memorial will be at the heart of the newly renovated World Trade Center site, which will include six office towers, including the 1,776-foot-tall 1 World Trade Center, which will be the tallest building in the U.S. when it's finished. A transportation hub, performing arts center and retail areas will round out the area.
Since construction is still going on at the site, visitors will need to reserve passes to visit the memorial for at least the first year it is open. To reserve passes, visit www.911memorial.org.
Flight 93 Memorial
The memorial to United Flight 93 will be the centerpiece of a new national park at the site of the attack, which used to be a coal mine, near Shanksville, Pa. Construction on the first phase of the park is scheduled to be done by the 10th anniversary of the attacks, and additional features are supposed to be done in 2014, according to an overview of the site published by the architects.
Visitors enter the main part of the memorial on a walkway set at the flight's final trajectory. The field where Flight 93 crashed, which is the heart of the memorial, will remain untouched and visible from a memorial plaza. The names of the 40 passengers and crew members on the plane are inscribed on a wall along the plaza.
A field of honor, which will eventually tie the plaza to other elements of the memorial, is finished, and rehabilitated wetlands will also eventually surround the area. The field of honor will one day be ringed by 40 groves of 40 trees each to create a living memorial to those who perished, according to the memorial's official website. A permanent visitor's center and entry portal to the memorial are scheduled to be done in 2014, and visitors will also have access to the site's western overlook, which is where the investigation into the crash was headquartered.
As a final touch, a 93-foot tall Tower of Voices will mark the entrance to the park. The hollow tower will be filled with 40 wind chimes.
National Pentagon 9/11 Memorial
The Pentagon's memorial was dedicated in 2008, making it the first Sept. 11 memorial to be finished at an attack site. A courtyard filled with memorial benches allows visitors to reflect on the attacks, and a stone set into a wall surrounding the outer edge of the memorial points passers by to the spot the plane hit the Pentagon.
Each victim is honored with a bench set above a reflecting pool, and the name of a single victim is emblazoned on the end of each bench. The benches are placed at the same angle as American Airlines Flight 77's trajectory into the building, and they face one of two ways to designate where the victim was during the attack. If you are reading the victim's name while facing the Pentagon, you'll know they were in the Pentagon during the attack. If you can see the name while facing the sky, that victim was on board Flight 77.
The placement of each bench within the memorial is also symbolic. Entering the memorial, visitors see the "zero line" laid into the ground, which is marked with the date and time of the attack. The ground is laid with subsequent lines, each line representing a different birth year -- and each victim's bench is placed on the line corresponding with the year they were born. A wall ringing the memorial also corresponds with these age lines, rising an inch for each year. The wall is 3 inches tall when it lines up with the bench honoring the youngest victim, who was 3 years old, and grows across the memorial to 71 inches at the spot it lines up with the oldest victim's bench.