Instilling Hope for an Eternity This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

June 1, 2013
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As we lined up to enter the 9/11 memorial, I clutched my camera tightly and shuffled across the gravel, the light hearted conversations around me lowering to a serene quiet. Walking in a jumbled mass, all four classes trekked through an outdoor passageway at different paces, but when the gravel ended and large tiles of natural rock began, we stopped and collected ourselves. Young, green trees filled the wide, picturesque expanse, lined in rows beside rectangles of grass plots.
The beauty of it all was enchanting and we stood there for a moment, taking it all in. Then, as if we were one entity and our wills combined, we moved ahead as a united group. A few steps forward, we found ourselves standing before a massive pool of black rock with water cascading from the sides in a low whisper. In the middle was another pool, the water flowing calmly and slowly over and in.
Standing there, everything was peaceful and quiet, the sound of moving water enveloping and soothing us. Yet, through this bubble came the crashing reality. Before us sat the South Pool, the exact location of the base of the South Tower before September 11th, 2001, and each name found on the metal slab that surrounded the perimeter of the pool was that of someone who had left us that tragic day. Gingerly, I slid my fingers over the many grooves etched into the cool metal, and as I did, I felt suspended in that moment.
Right then, I realized the damage that had been inflicted upon the city. Being only two years old when it had actually occurred, I had no memory of the Twin Towers or that fateful day, but I ultimately grew up knowing about it. It had horrified me as a child, but until that moment- my hand firmly pressed against the metal and my eyes closed- I had never fully apprehended the circumstances. Name after name, I found myself thinking about the people who had left us that day only twelve years ago. It filled me with grief and anguish to know that these innocent, hardworking people were forever gone. But above all, these thoughts made me grateful.
I was grateful for the memorial, the idea that we’d never let these men, women, fathers, mothers, friends, and colleagues fade from our hearts, and it gave me hope. It made me think and believe that so long as these memories burned within us, this memorial, in all its magnificence, would continue to remind us of the people that we so dearly miss, and instill hope in our hearts for a better future.

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