.- Americans are planning to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and pay tribute to the victims and their families with both secular and religious ceremonies, including a Mass in New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“There's a sense of anxiousness – people are going to be setting foot on the World Trade Center site for the first time in 10 years,” New York City's official 9/11 Memorial representative Sarah Lippman told CNA.
“But while I think there's certainly a sense of remorse and remembrance for what happened, there's also a sense of hope and a spirit of rebuilding,” she added.
Lippman said that the unique and vivid Ground Zero memorial will open to the families of victims for a special ceremony on Sept. 11 and then to the general public on Sept. 12.
In an exclusive interview, she described the design of the eight-acre memorial, which includes a plaza with over 200 oak trees and two large reflecting pools with 30-foot waterfalls.
The pools are an acre in size each, sit “within the footprints of the original twin towers” and “have the largest man-made waterfalls in America,” she said.
Both waterfalls pour into the granite lined pools, each of which have another 20-foot drop in the center.
“The design is titled 'Reflecting Absence' and I think that's exactly what they do – they give you a scope of what was here by being so massive and being an acre in size each,” Lippman said.
“Because of how deep they go, you get a sense of the loss but at the same time there's water continuously flowing through the pools which is a sign of peace and tranquility.”
Lippman also noted that the victims' names – both from 9/11 and the 1993 terrorist bombing in New York City – are inscribed in bronze on the granite and are organized by what she called “meaningful adjacencies.”
“Unlike any other memorial in the world, the names are not arranged alphabetically or even chronologically – they're arranged by relationships people shared in life.”
She also said that a 9/11 Memorial museum is in the process of being built and is expected to open in September of 2012. The museum on the site will extend three stories high vertically, but will also plunge seven stories below ground and feature extensive historical exhibits and artifacts.
Lippman said that the opening of the memorial on Sept. 11 strives to honor victims in light of the 10th anniversary of the attacks but also shows the hope inherent in the process of rebuilding.
“I think there's a sense of resilience in this country and I think that's something that a lot of people here are proud of,” she said.
“We're all taken back to those days before 9/11 where there was such a sense of patriotism and unity amongst all Americans, not only New Yorkers. It was really felt across the nation and across the world.”
Catholic communities in the Northeast are also coming together in the next week to pay tribute to the victims of the Sept.11 attacks.
At St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, a Mass of Remembrance will unite over 2,500 people on Sept. 10 and will be presided over by the Vatican observer to the United Nations Archbishop Francis Chullikatt.
The event will feature Gregorian chant sung by renowned musical group Pueri Cantores as well as local children's choirs.
Organizer Jan Schmidt said that the archbishop's presence shows the Vatican's solidarity with the American Catholic community as they grieve.
“Archbishop Chullikatt,” Schmidt noted, “is a man of great kindness, intelligence and humor who has a deep passion for youth and excellent music.”
“It's a distinct honor for our singers, their families and the 9/11 families to have him with us at this Mass. He is an extraordinary leader in our Church,” Schmidt said.
In Baltimore, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary plans to honor victims with a solemn Vespers service on Sept. 11, led by local Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien.
“People in the East Coast, given their proximity to New York, Pennsylvania and D.C., have a special appreciation for the horror of 9/11 because they likely know someone personally impacted by the terrorist attacks because they lived there, worked there or were visiting there,” archdiocesan spokesman Sean Caine said.
Caine said that the evening's service will consist of “the nightly evening prayer of the universal Church,” including hymns, Scripture readings, prayers and a homily from Archbishop O'Brien.
“Just as many people did that day and in the days that followed, people are expected to turn to their faith – whatever it is – and seek comfort for their grief, loss and sense of vulnerability and fear,” Caine added.
“It is our hope that people, regardless of faith, find some comfort in the welcoming and prayerful presence of our Catholic churches at this time.”
Also attending the Vespers service will be auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden and six pastors from neighboring Catholic parishes.
Although Caine said the number of expected attendees is unknown, invitations have gone out to the entire “ecumenical community” in the downtown area.
“The victims of 9/11 and their families have a special claim on our prayers,” Caine remarked.
“Their unspeakable suffering is ours to share with them, and on this anniversary in particular, we should welcome the opportunity to mourn with them, to remember with them and to pray with them and for their loved ones.”