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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

April 25, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Up from the ashes: the National September 11 Memorial and the debate on homeland security

Just outside the spacious 9/11 Memorial site Tuesday afternoon, our UW Election Eye team asked a few people who they trust more to keep America safe — President Obama or likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

NEW YORK CITY — Stepping onto Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan is an overwhelming and incredibly sad sensation. As a first time visitor to New York, and with no discernible connection to the tragic events that day, I had forgotten how the site of the burning buildings had riled up feelings of fear and anger in me. The beautiful fountains, each adorned with the names of the victims and heroes killed that day, stand as not-so-gentle reminders of the towering buildings that once seemingly touched the edge of the sun. Those memories and emotions suddenly came pouring back.

The names of those fallen adorn the fountains at the National September 11 Memorial on April 24, 2012. (Photo by Derek Walker/UW Election Eye)

The names of those fallen adorn the fountains at the National September 11 Memorial on April 24, 2012. (Photo by Derek Walker/UW Election Eye)

The National September 11 Memorial stands as a tribute to the 2,983 men, women, and children who died in the terrorist attacks more than 10 years ago. While construction of the World Trade Center projects continues, the Memorial operates in a limited, yet awe inspiring fashion.

Security is tight, and upon entry I had apparently pointed my camera in the wrong direction. A police officer approached me and asked, “Sir, would you mind showing me the pictures you just took?”

Having already gone through a rigorous screening upon entry — one TSA officials would envy — I was somewhat taken aback. As I revealed the shots taken since entering the memorial, the officer explained that there were sensitive security issues that we, as visitors and citizens, must observe and respect. It was a telling indication of just how much these attacks affected the country, particularly New York.

Memories and emotions of the tragic events that took place on September 11, 2001, are made real for visitors. (Photo by Derek Walker/UW Election Eye)

Memories and emotions of the tragic events that took place on September 11, 2001, are made real for visitors. (Photo by Derek Walker/UW Election Eye)

For me, this visit put perspective on the surreal images I witnessed on a television screen in my office all those years ago. Suddenly it feels more real, more tangible. It’s almost as if you can reach out and touch the pain.

Just days away from the one year anniversary of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and with another election year speeding ahead, I wondered who people felt would be more capable of keeping the country safe — Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Just outside the memorial, people seemed to be more concerned with the state of the economy than the threat of another attack, even with the memory of 9/11 looming in the background. Some felt the two were connected: that we would only be safe once we got our financial house in order.

Regardless of political persuasion, a visit to the National September 11 Memorial is cause for deep reflection.

 

Derek Walker can be reached at derek@derekjwalker.com

Thor Tolo contributed to this article.

 

Comments | More in National | Topics: 9/11 Memorial, Ground Zero, Manhattan

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