By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Six months from today, the long-awaited 9/11 memorial is scheduled to open for the first time.
Enormous waterfalls will flow into pools in the Twin Towers footprints. Nearly 300 trees will shade the cobblestone-paved memorial plaza. And the names of the nearly 3,000 attack victims will be inscribed on bronze parapets, memorialized for the first time at the site of the attacks.
But about 180 days before 9/11/11, the 8-acre memorial is still very much a construction site.
On a recent afternoon, workers laid stone tiles along the plaza, covering the complex infrastructure below. They also cleared sites for new trees, which are expected to arrive this spring. So far, more than 120 swamp white oak trees have been planted at the memorial, a number that is expected to more than double by September.
At the North Tower pool, bronze panels bearing the victims' names already stretch halfway around the perimeter. The names are large and deeply grooved, and the smooth bronze glows when it catches sunlight.
The Port Authority tested the waterfall in the North Tower footprint last fall and expects to do a similar test in the South Tower pool in April, a spokesman said.
After the 10th anniversary ceremonies, the memorial will be open to the public seven days a week through a timed ticketing system. Construction will still continue all around the memorial on the other projects, including One World Trade Center, which recently reached the 58th floor. By September, the skyscraper will be about 80 stories tall.
"Signs of progress are everywhere," Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward said in a statement. "But there is much left to do and challenges ahead so we can't let up. We must continue to keep our heads down and zeroed in on delivering on the commitment we made to open the 9/11 memorial on the 10-year anniversary."