Travel experts advise getting to the airport two hours before a domestic flight, three for an international one. I know it’s a lot to make happen, but on an upcoming trip, consider adding an hour more. There’s a place I’d like you to see at Logan Airport, and I’m guessing most of you have only glimpsed it from the roadway — not due to a lack of interest, but rather the difficult logistics of it all. The bit of extra time you’ll spend is worth it, I promise.
Dedicated in 2008, the 9/11 memorial at Logan is breathtaking as a piece of public art, heart-wrenching as a gathering place of the names of the dead and reverential as a place to reflect on a world changed forever 22 years ago this week.
Don’t look for it at Terminal A, B, C or E. Nor does this structure that is part elegy, part eulogy have a gate number.
Instead it is quietly waiting for you on a slight rise of land between Central Parking for Terminal A and the Hilton Hotel. To the casual observer, the location may seem tucked out of the way. To the airport planners pressed to use every available square foot at 2600-acre-small Logan for passengers or airline operations, it sits on priceless real estate. It was no easy feat for Massport personnel and aviation families to wrangle and preserve these 2.5 acres for a prayerful purpose.
From Terminal A, take the pedestrian bridge to the Central Parking level one and follow the signs. Alternatively, park on the second floor of the garage near the A terminal elevators and take the pedestrian bridge to the Hilton Hotel. It’s a quick walk to the memorial from the lobby.
There your visit, in honor of the 20 crew members and 127 passengers who were murdered on American Flight 11 and United Flight 175, begins. Surrounded by emerging walls of stone quarried in New England you are greeted by words that don’t try to soften the blow of that painful day but rather acknowledge its impact. “Remember this day. This memorial is intended as a place of reflection for all those who were forever changed by the events of September 11, 2001.”
From there you can choose one of two paths carved through a grove of carefully-cared-for ginkgo trees, one route rising to the left, one to the right. Each represents the two flight paths the planes were to follow that day.
Whichever path you take, at their ends are two identical glass panel entrances. They are only distinguished by the times etched at the top — 7:59 on one, 8:14 on the other — each representing when the two flights departed the airport.
Venture inside the glass cube, you immediately feel both tightly held and untethered, as if your soul, too, may take flight. Look up, and multiple pieces of suspended glass evoke a sky forever fractured.
At the cube’s very center are two more glass panels facing each other. And here we find them. The names. Our beloved ones. Our pain. Our loss. Our people.
The Logan Airport 9/11 memorial is highlighted by Architectural Digest as one of the most powerful and moving in the world. You can read about the others here: architecturaldigest.com/gallery/september-11-memorials-slideshow.
The firm Moskow Linn Architects certainly achieved what the article’s writer described as the challenge of memorial architecture: “It must be solemn but hopeful, visually impactful but respectful.”
The Massachusetts 9/11 Fund organization lists all the local memorials in Massachusetts including ours in Marblehead here massfund.org/memorials-remembrance/911-memorials-in-massachusetts/.
Because of its location, the Logan memorial is most often visited by the airline and airport employees who lost their friends and colleagues. That its designers and planning committee, which included the widow of American Flight 11 Captain John Ogonowski, created a space allowing visitors to mourn as well as honor the majesty of the aviation profession seems a bit of magical, or perhaps, divine inspiration.
This poem, written by Sue Moses, an American Airlines employee, captures the unique mixture of loss and pride felt by aviation colleagues on 9/11 anniversaries, as nothing else I’ve read has done. It’s called “American, United.”
“We’ve always done what we do best,
Up in the friendly skies.
And then one awful, fateful day
We’re taken by surprise
An unseen, unknown enemy
Attacking us in hate
And using what has made us proud
To destroy what’s made us great.
We watch in shock the scenes unfold
We watch in disbelief
We shake our heads, we wipe our eyes
Unspeakable, the grief
And through it all, while it unfolds
We cannot help but cry —
American, we cling together
United, we ask “Why?”
Please, wake us from this nightmare
It all seems so unreal
We force ourselves to carry on
In a new world, so surreal
Lean on each other for support
Lend others, a helping hand
American, our dedication
United, we will stand
We ask each other, “how they dare”
We cannot understand
We search for answers, search for meaning
No answer is at hand
Hate must not replace sorrow,
Of this we’re very sure
American, we bow our heads
United, we’ll endure
The unknown numbers, now with God
As angels, by His side
Must want for us to carry on
To not withdraw and hide
And so, it’s in their memory
That we will hold so long
American, we will stand tall
United, we’ll be strong.”
Virginia Buckingham is the president of the Current’s board of directors. Her column appears weekly.
A member of the Marblehead Current’s Board of Directors, Virginia Buckingham is the former chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Port Authority, chief of staff to two Massachusetts governors, deputy editorial page editor for the Boston Herald and author of “On My Watch: A Memoir.”