The Eagle Rock Reservation hilltop is a two-way mirror.
It offers a sobering look back at all this nation lost on 9/11, life affirming proof of human resiliency and the opportunity for internal reflection.
It’s a spectacular view.
We stood there Sunday afternoon and felt just a hint of what the residents of New Jersey must have experienced when they made their way to that area as the World Trade Center smoldered on that horrible day nearly 22 years ago. Most of them knew someone who worked in those buildings, many lost relatives.
As the news of the attack filtered in, thousands of people congregated in that spot, which offered the clearest view of Manhattan, and they stood in a respectful silence that throbbed with shock and grief.
From that sorrow grew resolve and a determination to honor all that we lost, and to find our way forward. In West Orange, they began to turn that solemn spot into a remarkable, comprehensive tribute. The railing lists all 3,000 people died on 9/11 (including Appleton East graduate Daniel Song).
It honors the emergency responders, the search dogs, the flight crews and every day citizens who became heroes that day. A poignant statue of a little girl named “Gabriella” represents the more than 1,000 children who lost a parent on 9/11,
A 7,400 pound hunk of steel and concrete retrieved from one of the fallen towers also stands in tribute to the tragedy. Seven freshly planted trees represent an aspect — the World Trade Center North Tower, the World Trade Center South Tower, the Pentagon, American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77 and United Airlines Flight 93.
Transcending that thoughtful memorial is the view that drew people there in the first place. Manhattan still stands, a testament to triumph and hope.
I’d like to think the American spirit that rose from that tragedy continues to inspire us all. I’m grateful to Essex County for building such a thoughtful memorial and inviting us all to take a few moments and reflect.