Rush-hour traffic emerged from the Battery Tunnel and roared up West Street on that gray, overcast afternoon as I made my way through the narrow, temporary passageways that snake around partially constructed buildings and deep foundation pits. My ticket for the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site gets checked one last time at the temporary entrance on the southwest corner, and then I feel my heart rate climb and my throat constrict.

Designed by Michael Arad, the central foci of the memorial are two deep, square pools that mark the footprints of the two destroyed buildings. A delicate screen of water cascades down the sides, evoking the thin vertical strands that were the main architectural feature of the two towers that once dominated the skyline of lower Manhattan. The pools of water drain into still deeper shafts at their centers. Bronze railings surround the two pools of falling water, and into them are inscribed the names of those who died on September 11, 2001, not just at the World Trade Center, but also at the Pentagon and on the airplane that crashed into the Pennsylvania countryside.

I am looking for the names of the three men who were my college classmates.

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