How the 9/11 Memorial Reflecting Pools Are Kept Clean

Insider visited with the engineering staff of the 9/11 Memorial Reflecting Pools in New York City to learn how they keep this moving tribute so clean.

The two waterfall pools at the 9/11 Memorial serve as the centerpiece of one of the most iconic monuments in the United States. These striking pools, each spanning roughly an acre, occupy the footprints of the former north and south towers of the World Trade Center and commemorate the thousands of lives lost during the tragic events of September 11th.

A pair of workers walk through the pools vacuuming up debris and algae while another follows with a brush. As they work on the floor of the pools, another engineer is ensuring the pumps work correctly, and yet another is cleaning the bronze nameplates with a blowtorch.

Five nights a week, staff members wade into the pools to clean and remove debris, to keep them in pristine condition. Meanwhile, engineers use a special blowtorch to restore the name panels above the pools, ensuring that the memories of the victims endure with honor, respect, and dignity.

Jim, one of the workers, explains that every day is always a little different as they walk the nearly acre of each pool.

We find kids’ toys, little small items. Depends on the crowd. One night I actually found a bat in there. And I’m not talking about a baseball bat, I’m talking about a bat. It was pretty wild when he flew away from me when I realized I was grabbing a bat. Depending on the cleanliness of the pool, it could take anywhere between six and seven hours. And sometimes, if we feel up to it, we could do it a little quicker.

He also addresses how some people don’t seem to understand or care about the importance of this particular memorial to 2,983 victims of both the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, particularly since he and others on the team knew some of the victims.

Some people treat this place like a wishing well. So we do catch some money, and unfortunately I think some people, being that it’s so far removed from the original 9/11, I think some people are a little uneducated about this place, and some people treat it like just a regular fountain,and they’re throwing garbage in here sometimes too.

Cleaning 911 Memorial Reflecting Pool

Ryan, the engineer cleaning the nameplates echoed Jim’s concerns.

Confuses me why you’d want to write something here. For a mark like that, you have to go pretty deep, get all the way down. Otherwise you can’t really get rid of it. If you don’t go down far enough, you’ll see it when you refinish it. The further down you go, the better.Sometimes I’ve seen nice things written, but, you know, they don’t understand. You can’t just write whatever you want on it.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.