From the September 2011 issue of National Geographic Traveler
This month the 9/11 Memorial—two massive pools set in the footprints of the World Trade Center towers with waterfalls cascading down the side walls—opens to the public. It’s certain to become one of the most visited memorials in the United States. The planet is imprinted with similar reminders of lives lost and disasters past.
This gently sloping, 4.7-acre swath of land in Berlin near the Brandenburg Gate memorializes the horrors of the Holocaust. Visitors walk through a thought-provoking thicket of 2,711 concrete blocks that rise one to sixteen feet high.
Better known as the Killing Fields, this mass grave south of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, is where the Khmer Rouge killed up to 17,000 people in the 1970s. Encased in a Buddhist stupa—made with transparent acrylic—are 8,000 human skulls.
In Prague, seven bronze figures descend a flight of stairs, each appearing more decayed than the last—symbol of the dehumanizing toll of four decades of Communist rule. A bronze strip in the stairs gives grim numbers.
These Dutch-built slave quarters on Gorée Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site, are both memorial and museum, a stark reminder of the countless Africans sold into slavery near here from 1536 to 1848. Many exited through the house’s Door of No Return.
At the site of the 1863 Civil War battle that claimed 51,000 casualties, the granite neoclassical Pennsylvania State Memorial stands out. Even more profound is Soldiers National Cemetery: Nearby, President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.