9/11 Memorial Pools

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The centerpiece of the 9/11 Memorial in New York City is undoubtedly the twin reflecting pools, aptly named “Reflecting Absence.”

These pools are not just bodies of water but powerful symbols of loss and remembrance, standing in the footprints of the fallen Twin Towers that were destroyed during the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Let’s examine how these pools are significant parts of the memorial and why they are a must-see feature inside the attraction.

What are Memorial Pools?

The 9/11 Memorial Pools are two large reflecting pools that occupy the footprints of the former North and South Towers (Twin Towers) of the World Trade Center. 

The pools, each measuring nearly an acre in size, feature the largest manufactured waterfalls in North America, dropping 30 feet down from all four sides.

The bottom of each pool has a square basin where the water collects before disappearing into a smaller, central void. 

This central void, representing the absence left by the fallen towers, is a powerful symbol of the loss suffered on 9/11.

The reflecting pools bear the names of nearly 2,983 people who died in the 11 September 2001 attacks and the 26 February 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

The victims’ names are written on bronze parapets surrounding both Memorial pools.

Walking alongside these vast pools creates a powerful sense of absence, reminding visitors of the physical void left behind by the attacks.

To visit the Memorial Pool and pay your tribute, buy 9/11 Memorial & Museum tickets.

Engraved Names Near The Pools

Royal Madrid Museum
Image : BEERTA MAINI on Unsplash

The parapets surrounding the pools hold immense significance.  

Bronze panels are inscribed with the names of the 2,977 people killed in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, as well as the six people killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.  

The names are not listed alphabetically but according to their affiliation on the day of the attacks.  

This approach reflects the idea that on that day, everyone—firefighters, police officers, civilians, and visitors—was united in their response to the tragedy. 

Visitors can find the names of loved ones by using a designated panel address system.

Learn facts about the 911 Memorial and check out tips for a smooth visit.

The Story Behind the Name “Reflecting Absence”

9/11 Memorial Pools
Image : Kaabii Kiseki on Unsplash

The name “Reflecting Absence” for the pools at the 9/11 Memorial wasn’t chosen lightly.

It is a thought-provoking name that encourages contemplation, remembrance, and a sense of shared humanity. 

A Contest for the Memorial

Following the tragic events of 9/11, a design competition was held to create a fitting memorial on the World Trade Center site.  

Thousands of entries were submitted, each interpreting how to commemorate the loss and honor the victims.

Among the finalists was the design by Michael Arad and Peter Walker titled “Reflecting Absence.” 

This design resonated with the jury for its emotionally touching use of negative space. 

Thus, the towers’ vast, empty footprints, transformed into reflecting pools, became a powerful symbol of the physical absence left by the attacks.

The Symbolism of the Name

The name “Reflecting Absence” for the 9/11 Memorial Pools is a powerful statement loaded with symbolism. It reminds us of the tragedy, the lives lost, and the importance of remembrance. 

It suggests the memorial is a place to reflect and contemplate the tragedy and those who perished. 

It prompts visitors to reflect on the trauma of 9/11 and what was lost, both in terms of lives and the absence of the towers in the New York City skyline.

Visitors can stand at the edge of the pools, gazing at the cascading water and the engraved names.  

The scale of the pools and the constant flow of water create a sense of awe and contemplation.  

The quiet serenity of the space allows visitors to connect with the stories of those lost and to find a sense of peace amidst the tragedy.

Why do we have the Memorial Pools at the 9/11 Memorial?

working of the Pool
Image : Axel Houmadi on Unsplash

The use of water bodies at a memorial dates back thousands of years. 

In ancient Egypt, pools were associated with the afterlife and the journey of the soul. 

Similarly, reflecting pools were incorporated into temple complexes in ancient India and Mesoamerica.

The reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and the Pool of Remembrance in London, established after World War I, are a few such examples. 

The 9/11 Memorial Pool was also built following this tradition.  

The cascading water of this reflecting pool not only creates a mesmerizing visual but fosters a sense of peace and tranquility, a space for quiet reflection amidst the bustling city.

The water’s surface acts as a mirror. It encourages visitors to pause, reflect on the events of 9/11, and remember the victims.

How Does It Function?

The 9/11 Memorial Pools are a remarkable feat of engineering that creates a visually stunning and emotionally resonant memorial.

The pools at the 9/11 Memorial feature a continuous water flow, with underground pumps circulating water. 

Water cascades down from 30 feet into a basin, then filters clean it before directing it to a central void, creating an illusion of disappearing water. 

This disappearing water reinforces the concept of absence at the heart of the memorial. Just as the water seems to vanish, so too were the lives lost on 9/11.

If you are fascinated by the 9/11 Memorial Pool and its significance, we recommend booking a guided tour for a more immersive experience.

Visit the underground 911 Museum, where you can explore the artifacts and learn about the events related to the attacks.


What does the pool mean in the 911 Memorial?

The pools in the 911 Memorial, known as the Reflecting Absence, occupy the Twin Towers’ footprints. 

They symbolize loss and absence, providing a space for reflection and remembrance.

How deep is the 911 Memorial waterfall?

Featured Image: 911memorial.org