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The first thing visitors encounter at the Garden of Reflection is the mangled steel.
For anyone who saw photos of Ground Zero in the days and months following September 11, 2001, its appearance is unmistakable—a tiny remnant of the destroyed World Trade Center. But what is remarkable about the memorial is that, while it starts with a jarring reminder of the day’s tragedy, the tone quickly shifts to solemn and then to hopeful. It’s all in keeping with the memorial’s theme—“After Darkness…Light.”
Set on farmland in Yardley in Lower Makefield township, the Garden of Reflection is Pennsylvania’s official 9/11 Memorial. It was built in honor of the 18 Bucks County residents who died in the terrorist attacks and pays tribute to all the 2973 lives lost that day in Lower Manhattan, at the Pentagon, and on the hijacked aircrafts.
Tributes to the victims
The creation of the Garden of Reflection 9-11 Memorial was spearheaded by local families who lost loved ones on September 11. They included people who worked on the upper floors of the towers—including at the firm Cantor Fitzgerald which lost over 600 employees—as well as a passenger on Flight 93. Victor Saracini of Yardley, the pilot of Flight 175, and Lorraine Bay of Langhorne, a flight attendant on Flight 93, also died.
The stories of the Bucks County residents, as published in the New York Times, are told on displays around the Memorial. From time to time, visitors also leave personal notes and tributes, especially coinciding with the anniversary of the attacks and other meaningful days.
Design of the garden
Designed by local Yardley architect Liuba Lashchyk, the Memorial takes visitors on a journey starting with tragedy, passing through grief, and moving towards hope and peace. The shift is clear through the materials employed in the different parts of the giant spiral that makes up the garden.
Just past the fragment of the World Trade Center, there is clear change moving away from disaster to symbols of life and strength. Visitors will find 58 redbud trees representing the Pennsylvania residents who died and 18 maple trees representing those from Bucks County. Beyond that, 42 luminaries honor the children from Pennsylvania who lost a parent.
A short walk from there, a memorial plaque marks the path to the Wall of Remembrance. Here, the names of everyone who died on September 11 are etched in glass. Throughout, there are benches with special dedications.
The core of the Memorial features a plaque with the names of the Bucks County residents who died and nine red maples in honor those who were from Lower Makefield township. At the center are the twin fountains representing the Twin Towers as symbols of renewal and healing. When they’re lit up at night, they are reminiscent of the Tribute in Light—the blue towers of light that ascend into the sky in Lower Manhattan every year on the anniversary.
Although we have lived in Pennsylvania for nearly 20 years, we lived in Manhattan on September 11, 2001, and have lots of our own stories and memories from that day and those that followed. Walking through the Memorial, it was impossible not to be moved by the tributes to the victims and buoyed by the sense of hope and lightness literally and figuratively embodied in the fountains.
The Garden of Reflection spans 2.5 acres and is surrounded by a 2-acre Oak Garden Arboretum set within the much larger 62-acre Memorial Park. As a result, there is plenty of room to reflect and enjoy the space—in fact, that what it’s intended for.
Many families who lost loved ones do not have remains or a gravesite where they can grieve, reflect, or feel close to their family members. The Garden of Reflection provides that space in a beautiful, peaceful setting.
In addition to the Memorial, the overall park is designed to be a vibrant, joy-filled space. It is often full of people walking their dogs, exercising, and having fun. There is a unique playground for children of different abilities and those with sensory issues, plus a basketball court, volleyball nets, and sports fields. In season, a community garden fills with flowers, herbs, and vegetables tended by locals. The whole thing is meant to be full of life and life-affirming.