IN THE DARKNESS, from a distance, the park is a sea of glowing spots – indistinct, eerie, even spectral. But up closer, details emerge. Row after row of stainless steel benches curve up from the ground like fins, or wings of a creature arrested in motion. These 184 benches hover over 184 pools of illuminated water, one for each man, woman, and child killed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
I’ve long had a thing for visiting memorials at night. When I lived in Washington, I loved to go to the FDR Memorial in the wee hours, when the tour buses and the teenagers had gone and the bright sun had given way to the city lights and the stars, when the senses could be saturated by the sound of falling water. The blackness of night, of course, is evocative of death, but it is the stillness, I think, that transforms the experience; absent the familiar sights and sounds that distract our senses during the day, we are guided not by the footsteps of fellow travelers, but by our own response to architecture, to history, to memory, to loss.
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