The fences around the 9/11 memorial were taken down Thursday as the museum below ground was officially dedicated, opening up the space at ground zero for the first time since the 2001 terror attacks.
The 9/11 memorial, which opened in 2011 and consists of two reflecting pools evoking the footprints of the towers, takes up about half of the 16-acre World Trade Center site.
Before the memorial opened, the site was completely closed to the public, and had been since Sept. 11, 2001.
In the months after the attacks, it was a recovery site where debris was sifted for human remains. After the trade center ruins were cleared away in 2002, it became a construction site for the various redevelopment projects and the building of the memorial and the museum.
When the memorial first opened, visitors needed tickets to get into the space, through a gate guarded by security and an X-ray bag search. That changed Thursday, when the fences came down, opening up the entire 8 acres to passersby.
It is free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
"It's the best thing they could have done," said Sylvia Rosen of Battery Park City. "Everyone should see it. No one should forget."
Memorial designer Michael Arad had said his vision was for a memorial plaza where the public could visit and come together freely. The fences around the plaza were always meant to be temporary until the museum construction was complete.
"I literally got goosebumps coming down Liberty Street and seeing the memorial plaza finally open," said Arad. "It's a moment I've been waiting for for so many years."
-- Ida Siegal contributed to this report