If you stay at the Hilton Millenium Hotel in lower Manhattan, and you get a room pretty high up, say above the 25thfloor, facing west, towards New Jersey, you can look right down on the 9/11 Memorial and into the twin black reflecting pools where the towers once stood.The area is still largely a construction site. The streets are torn up, and three future skyscrapers, World Trade Center 2, 3 and 4, are just shells of concrete and rebar. But the grandest of them all, World Trade Center 1, or Freedom Tower, is near completion. It is a brutally beautiful building, although beautiful isn’t quite the word. I guess it’s too big and sleek and alien to be beautiful, at least in the human-scale, everyday meaning of the word. While it isn’t the tallest in the world, it is still very tall, and, as of right now, it is the most expensive ever built.
There is another memorial nearby, over in Battery Park, right by the Hudson. It is a smaller remembrance of a much bigger tragedy – the death of a million Irish from hunger between 1845 and 1852. Simon Schama calls the Irish Hunger Memorial a “New York lament”. It looks as if a giant had scooped up an acre of the Irish countryside, houses, fields, stone fences and all, and placed it precariously on a stone pedestal where it sits balanced, on the verge of slipping off and falling to earth.
Schama wrote in the New Yorker about the memorial on the occasion of its opening in 2002, when the nearby scars of the 9/11 attack were still fresh.
…an urban tumulus—in this case, a cantilevered platform of verdure supported by a concrete base. Into this micro-landscape, planted with species native to Mayo (one of the hardest hit of the western counties) and strewn with fieldstones engraved with the names of all the counties of Ireland, is packed the memory of the calamity.