On September 11, 2011, the long-awaited memorial to the 2,982 victims of the 9/11 attacks was dedicated and, on the following day, opened to the public, officially unveiling the two nearly one-acre-sized footprints set one story deep into the plaza in the exact places where both of the Twin Towers once stood. Four waterfalls spring from each of the two footprints' four sides, creating a serene and reflective sound that counterbalance the noise and bustle of the city around them. Each waterfall is framed with bronze plates with the names of the victims from each tower, organized by category: first responder, worker, and so on. The names of each section of the Memorial follow the headings below:
Framing the North Pool:
World Trade Center: Those who worked in or were visiting the North Tower (1 World Trade Center) on 9/11
Flight 11: The crew and passengers of American Airlines Flight 11
February 26, 1993: Those who were killed in the February 26, 1993, bombing of the World Trade Center
Framing the South Pool:
World Trade Center: Those who worked in or were visiting the South Tower (2 World Trade Center) or other areas of the WTC complex on 9/11
Flight 175: The crew and passengers of United Airlines Flight 175
Pentagon: Those who worked in or were visiting the Pentagon on 9/11
Flight 77: The crew and passengers of American Airlines Flight 77
Flight 93: The crew and passengers of United Airlines Flight 93
First Responders: Those who received the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor awarded by the White House on September 9, 2005
Free passes are used to visit the memorial, which are given out via the website (see the "Ticket" link on this page) with the option to leave a donation to support the memorial and museum. The reservation system will continue to be used throughout the ongoing reconstruction of the World Trade Center site as a security measure and a matter of public safety. While it's difficult to predict how many people will turn out on a daily basis to see the memorial, the city is projecting that around five million people will visit the memorial every year, so be sure to plan ahead and get there early.
An additional system will specially accommodate victims' families to give them access to the memorial. More information will be available through the spring and summer of 2011, and families of victims will be contacted regarding visits.
Upon completion of One World Trade Center (formerly named the Freedom Tower), which is projected for some time in 2013, the memorial area will become an unrestricted New York City park, open to the public.
On September 11, 2012, the museum will open to the public, accessible through a large pavilion of glass and steel—with a glass atrium featuring two of original steel tridents from the World Trade Center towers—at street level, which will contain a "multi-purpose area for contemplation and refreshment," an auditorium for museum-curated programming available to the public, and a private suite solely for the use of the family members of the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
Visitors will then descend down a ramp to the museum proper at the level of the granite bedrock that makes up the foundation of the entire city. The ramp itself will be utilized by the museum to allow for special displays that will evoke the size and scale of the Twin Towers before descending to the level of the countless exhibits detailing the construction, evacuation, and eventual destruction of the tallest buildings New York City has ever seen.
In the interim between the opening of the memorial in September 2011 and the opening of the museum in September 2012, the Preview Site at 20 Vesey Street (at Church Street) will remain open to visitors Monday through Saturday, from 10am to 7pm, and Sunday from 10am to 6pm.
As with most things in New York City, the MTA provides the best way to reach both the memorial and museum. Subway lines with stops at Fulton, Rector, and Chambers Street, Brooklyn Bridge, City Hall, and Port Authority ferries and PATH train service are your best bets to reach the site.