I remember the morning of 9/11 clearly 10 years ago, hearing voices in a drowsy sleep about a plane in the World Trade Center emanating from the hallways of my college dorm. No, it must be part of my dream I thought. The 9/11 memorial is a key part of our collective healing, and this idea of a shared place to remember and reflect could not have been more prominent today. From the incredible warmth of the staff, to the rolls of paper and pencil available to create a keepsake from the names, to the tokens of memory already forming along the memorial, gathered here was a community of people hoping to honor, give tribute and remember those we lost on 9/11.

And like what great architecture should do, the memorial created new bonds between strangers. By chance we met Barbara, whose husband Ronald was head of security at the World Trade Center. He was able to call her before the tower fell, saying he was coming home. But he never made it–the tower fell as he was assisting a woman. Barbara carries that dual weight of loss and acceptance–at some point, she told us, you realize “that it really is just fate.” We discovered that her grandchildren attend the same school I did growing up near Stony Brook, Long Island. It was certainly fate for her and I to meet today. And in our thirty minute conversation we shared stories, spoke of patriotism and recalled that one terrible day, and of course, the memory of her husband. We also spoke of the wonderful Helmets to Hardhats program for injured veterans who were given the opportunity to help build the memorial.

A flag for Barbara’s husband, Ronald G. Hoerner

A look into the museum, which houses some of the beams of the original World Trade Center

The memorial is dedicated to all of those who died on the September 11th attacks, as well as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Here is Flight 93.

The 9/11 Memorial is designed by Michael Arad  

Barbara’s friend said as we parted, that the memorial is here for moments exactly like this. To forge new human bonds out of tragedy–to meet, share and honor. For all that was destroyed that day, the the 9/11 Memorial is a testament to the diversity that defines our nation. As I walked around I was struck by the names–from so many cultures and nationalities. An act of terror that was meant to destroy the foundation of America was replaced by the resounding message of a multi-national, multi-cultural monument to peace.

Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.