On the morning of September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes and perpetrated the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor. Two of the airplanes were crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Another airplane was crashed into the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C. The fourth airplane went down in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the passengers and crew rushed the terrorists.
In all, the September 11 attacks killed 2,977 people and injured an additional 6,000 people. Along with firefighters, police officers, and first responders, the majority of those killed were civilians whose ages ranged from two years old to 85 years old.
The entire nation rallied together to mourn the loss of so many in such a senseless act of terrorism. Now, more than 15 years later, the nation still remembers those who were killed in the attacks and the brave men and women who gave their lives to save others. Memorials, statues, and monuments have been erected around the country to honor those who lost their lives and to ensure that they will never be forgotten.
On the anniversary of the attacks, here is a list of 10 of the most moving and inspirational memorials to those killed on September 11, 2001.
10. Garden of Reflection, New Jersey
The Garden of Reflection 9/11 Memorial in Lower Makefield, Pennsylvania, is a beautiful and stirring memorial featuring a spiral walkway that leads to a dual fountain — symbolizing the Twin Towers. Along the walkway is a glass railing with the names of the victims inscribed. Remnants of the World Trade Center can be seen at the front of the garden. The motto for the Garden of Reflection, which is inscribed on a large stone, is “After Darkness… Light.” As visitors make their way along the spiral walkway, they are met first with the tragic facts and loss of that day and eventually come to the lighted fountain that inspires hope for the future.
9. The Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance, New York
On the western wall of Coney Island’s MCU Park, three large panels make up the Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance. This was the first 9/11 memorial established in New York City following the attacks. The wall, with bronze reliefs and laser-engraved plaques, commemorates 346 firefighters, 37 Port Authority officers, 23 NYC police officers, 3 NYS officers, 1 fire patrol, first responders, and a K9 rescue dog named Sirius. A third of the first responders who died on September 11 either worked or lived in Brooklyn, so this was a fitting place for the city’s first memorial.
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8. To Lift A Nation, Maryland
In the aftermath of 9/11, photographer Thomas Franklin captured what would become an iconic image of the event: three firefighters raising a tattered American flag amongst the rubble of the World Trade Center. Located in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the memorial titled “To Lift A Nation” features three large statues in a recreation of the photograph. It honors all who were affected by the September 11 attacks but pays special homage to the firefighters who gave their lives rescuing others from the buildings.
7. The Empty Sky, New Jersey
Two stainless steel walls, each the same length as one side of the Twin Towers, comprise the memorial in Jersey City, New Jersey, known as “The Empty Sky.” The walls are engraved with the names of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and the pathway between them points directly towards the site of the World Trade Center. A total of 749 people from New Jersey lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks, and this memorial across the Hudson River helps visitors remember them and the loss their loved ones endured.
6. Project 9/11 Indianapolis, Indiana
A granite wall split down the center commemorates the Twin Towers in this 9/11 memorial in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. The wall is inscribed with a timeline of events from September 11, 2001. In front of the wall are two steel beams from the World Trade Center standing upright. The sculpture of a bald eagle was placed on top of one of the beams, and the eagle is facing New York City. Fittingly, the Indianapolis 9/11 Memorial is located next to the Indianapolis Fire Station 13.
5. Postcards, New York
Two 40-foot-tall postcards represent notes or letters being sent to lost loved ones in this memorial on Staten Island, New York. Granite plaques with the names of the 269 victims from Staten Island are fixed on the sides of the Postcards’ walls, and standing between them, one can look straight at the site of Ground Zero.
4. To The Struggle Against World Terrorism, New Jersey
“To The Struggle Against World Terrorism,” located Bayonne, New Jersey, was an official gift from the Russian government to the United States to honor those who were killed on September 11, 2001. The 100-foot-tall bronze block is split down the middle to represent the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and a 40-foot-tall nickel teardrop hangs in the gap. A piece of the World Trade Center was also placed in front of the memorial, also known as the Tear Drop Memorial.
3. Flight 93 National Memorial, Pennsylvania
The site of Flight 93’s crash in a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, has been the site of a memorial since the attacks took place, starting with letters, notes, pictures, and more placed on a fence near the site. Since then, the Flight 93 National Memorial has been built, which includes a glass tower, pathways, and the Wall of Names — a series of marble slabs which each bear the name of a passenger or crew member who died when Flight 93 went down. Thanks to the brave and selfless actions of the passengers and crew aboard the airplane, the terrorists were never able to reach their target.
2. Pentagon Memorial, Washington, D.C.
The Pentagon Memorial, located to the southwest of the Pentagon building in Arlington, Virginia, honors the 184 people who were killed when the third plane crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The memorial features illuminated benches with running water beneath them, one for each person killed. The benches, which are each inscribed with the names of one of the victims, are arranged by age. Those killed when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon ranged in age from three years old to 71 years old. Illumination allows the memorial to be seen at night. Also located at the Pentagon, in the very spot where Flight 77 crashed into the building, is the America’s Heroes Memorial — a chapel which includes photographs and biographies of each of the 184 victims.
1. National September 11 Memorial & Museum, New York
Located at Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum is a reverent memorial to all those who lost their lives on that tragic day. At the center of each of the Twin Towers’ locations are square pools. The names of all those who died in the attacks are inscribed along the outside railing of the pools.
The museum, adjacent to the pools, includes information about the attacks on September 11, 2001 and the victims who were killed. Remnants from the World Trade Center and hours of video and audio biographies of the victims are part of the museum. Since opening in 2011, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum has had millions of visitors who have come to pay their respects and continue to remember those who were lost.
Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.