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Public gets first up-close view of September 11 Memorial

September 12, 2011 |  1:46 pm

Waterfalls

The National September 11 Memorial in New York opened to the public Monday, offering the first up-close view of the gray, cavernous waterfalls that designer Michael Arad calls "voids."

The somber memorial features twin reflecting pools that sit within the footprints of the original twin towers. The pools are nearly an acre in size and feature the largest artificial waterfalls in North America. The names of victims of both the first World Trade Center attack in 1993 and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are inscribed in bronze panels placed around the edge of the pools.

Hundreds of swamp white oak trees dotting the surrounding plaza are intended to create a canopy that will dramatically change with the seasons.

Photos: A look at the new September 11, 2001 Memorial

Kevin Nolan of Philadelphia told a Los Angeles Times reporter after his visit that he found the site "very nice," though neither he nor a friend with him understood the concept behind the design. "I think they should have rebuilt," said the friend, who declined to provide her name. "To me, building up is more important than building downward."

Nolan praised the etching of victims' names into the parapets surrounding each pool, because it offers the families a way to run their fingers over their loved ones' names. "That's really important to them, I'm sure," he said of people who lost loved ones.

He said he was surprised that for all the security concerns of late he was not asked to show an ID before entering. (Visitors produced printed passes and had their handbags and other personal items scanned.)

Fears about a security bottleneck did not materialize. Nor did the crowds inside. Visitors said there was plenty of space to wander among the oaks and peer down at the pools.

"I found it beautiful -- moving," said Esmerelda Martinez, who had come from Jersey City, N.J. She told a Times reporter: "I'm not sure I understand the design or why they did it this way, but it works."

Demand for passes to the memorial was so overwhelming that many people showed up without bookings, hoping they could still get in.

Among those taking the gamble were Stephanie Austin of Los Angeles and her friend, Lia Killeen of San Francisco, who were in New York this week for vacation.

After Sunday's formal dedication, Austin said she wanted to see the memorial for herself, "just to reflect on the event closely."

Though the women were just 13 when the attacks occurred, and neither knows anyone injured or killed, Austin said she felt a connection to the victims whose names are engraved in the parapets. "As an American, I felt like we were all in this together."

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-- Tina Susman reporting form New York and Rene Lynch reporting from Los Angeles

Photo: Visitors look over one of the pools at the September 11 Memorial Plaza on Monday. Photo: Mike Segar / Associated Press

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