The swath of land known as "the pile," "the pit" and "ground zero" opened to the public Monday for the first time since the World Trade Center towers were knocked down, with a memorial to the nearly 3,000 people who died there.
The memorial opened at 10 a.m. and is expected to draw thousands of people in just its first week.
The monument, featuring twin reflecting pools that evoke the footprints of the towers, opened first to the families of victims on Sunday, the 10th anniversary of the attacks. The pools are surrounded by waterfalls, with hundreds of white oak trees filling in the spaces of the plaza.
One of the first members of the public to visit was Eileen Cristina, 64, of Lititz, Pa. She was moved to tears by the moment Monday.
"For me, the water element is very important, because water is so cleansing. Water can cleanse the energy of the area," she said.
Reserved passes are required to visit the memorial. Memorial officials said nearly half a million passes have been reserved; they expect about three million visitors in the first year.
Julio Portalatin, of Jersey City, N.J., had a ticket for 10:30 a.m.
"I'm very, very drawn to this place," said Portalatin, who survived the attack on the north tower, where he worked for an insurance company. He added: "It's such a classy way to honor those who perished."
He and his wife got their tickets online "to pay tribute, to pay honor, to the eternal-ness of it all."
The memorial's opening to families on Sunday was an emotional day for which they had waited years.
As families walked onto the plaza, they found their loved ones' names, and reached out to touch the inscriptions. Some knelt on the ground, some wept as they saw the letters in bronze.
Later, some families made rubbings of the names with paper and pencil, and stuck roses and flags into the letters of the names.
The names are not alphabetical -- they are arranged according to on a combination of complex algorithms that took into account requests from victims' families regarding so-called "adjacencies," or people they wanted their loved ones grouped with.
Among the victims are 11 women who were known to be pregnant when they died. Their names include the phrase "and her unborn child." Learn more about that here.
Many relatives whose loved ones never had remains recovered said the memorial brings a new place of solace for them to visit.
"Now that there's a memorial, we have somewhere to go," said Christine Box, whose brother, Gary, was among the 343 firefighters killed. His remains were never identified.
As Lucy Loguidice read the name of her sister, Catherine, at the 9/11 ceremony, she expressed her gratitude to those who created the monument.
"I would like to thank everybody who did the memorial," she said. "It's very beautiful."
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