The 9/11 Memorial and How Dark Tourism Has Taken Over the World Trade Center Site

Location: 
New York, New York
United States
US

Visiting New York has always meant something to me. I first visited the city in 2005; I was and always will be mesmerized by the lights, the speed that people walk, and how vibrant the community is. Every time I turn a corner I am amazed by how lively it is, but ever since I moved to New York, I have realized that in the one place that should be silent, the city’s energy has started to take over.

Pace is in the heart of Lower Manhattan, a short four blocks from the World Trade Center site, or even less if you live in the dorms. During my tour of the school a year ago, my father and I decided to visit the site, and walked while talking about how New York has changed. When we arrived at the twin pools, we were both overcome with feeling, and took in the moment to look up into the sky at the new World Trade Center, and down into the two fallen ones. This feeling of grief and sadness did not last long, and was replaced with confusion and anger as we quickly became aware of the many tourists around us. New York is famous for tourists traps. Times Square, The Empire State Building, Central Park; they all attract obnoxious people with selfie sticks and loud voices to disrupt the status quo, but should a site of such a tragedy really be one of them?  There were people around us playing with their kids, smiling and taking selfies, throwing trash on the ground, and being disrespectful. I understand that tourists may not have the same sense of everyday awareness of what happened there, but they should still be mindful of the loss that impacted so many.

This sense of loss is especially prevalent at Pace, forty-seven members of our community lost their lives in the attacks, and school was closed for several weeks following them to recover. Classrooms occupied the 55th floor of the North Tower, which was also lost. Pace was evacuated and used as a triage center for victims of the attacks, police and firefighters occupied the school for weeks- the only clue of that is a German Shepard statue in our courtyard as a reminder of Pace’s support. Students pass by the site everyday, and many of the dorms have the World Trade Center as their view. We are constantly reminded of the attacks, and even though most of the students were only a few years old in 2001, there is a sense of community when you move to New York.

There are often religious groups and conspiracy theorists screaming at passerby to think about how “Bush killed your family” and “If you only believe in God this will never happen again.” I completely understand that some people have different beliefs than I do, but I do not believe that it is appropriate to use what is essentially a grave site to push your agenda. I am sure that there may be things that we do not know about the planning of the attacks and how they were executed, but we cannot deny that nearly 3,000 people lost their live in a senseless act of violence. I am not asking to stop believing whatever you do, and honestly I do not feel it is relevant to this discussion. I just want those who were killed, and those who lost loved ones to be respected and given time to heal.  I, and many people I have spoken to about this, believe that we should be more respectful around the memorial.

There is a difference between taking a photograph for the purpose of a memory, or if you have lost someone and want to feel closer to them with a photo, but for tourists- I believe they all need to hear this. It is outright disrespectful to openly enjoy your time at a site that witnessed so much loss.

I know that everyone feels differently about the September 11th attacks, and because seventeen years later we have lost the sense of loss and grief that was so prevalent years ago, so I just want anyone visiting the site to know- there are still people who feel everything they did years ago. I am not saying to stop asking questions, or to stop visiting the site; I believe that everyone has the right to do what they please. However, please be respectful of the lives lost, and stop acting like the World Trade Center is Times Square.