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9/11 Memorial: At site of terror, a site of grace (video)

The dedication of the 9/11 Memorial Sunday will evoke many emotions. Instrumental in bringing about the memorial are three Americans who were strangers on 9/11 but ultimately became linked by the terrible events of the day.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / September 10, 2011

Work on the signature reflecting pools continued at the 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan in late July. Water will disappear into the void created by the square opening (c.). A dedication is scheduled for Sept. 11.

Ann Hermes/Staff

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New York

This Sept. 11, 10 years after the terrorist attacks, the dedication of the 9/11 Memorial in New York will evoke many emotions: reverence for loved ones lost, gratitude for brave first responders, love of country, perhaps some uplift and peace.

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In a solemn ceremony, the families of the victims – as well as Presidents Obama and George W. Bush – will look out on two massive waterfalls that pour into pools formed in the footprints of the former towers of the World Trade Center. The water disappears into dramatic black voids. All around the pools are the names of the victims, incised into bronze sheeting.

Instrumental in bringing about the memorial are three Americans who were strangers on 9/11 but ultimately became linked by the terrible events of the day.

Joe Daniels emerged from a subway station to see the North Tower of the World Trade Center ablaze. "Like everyone around me, I was transfixed looking up at the hole in the building," he says.

From his East Village bedroom window, Michael Arad could see smoke coming out of the towers. He went to the roof of his building and watched United Flight 175 swoop down the Hudson River and crash into the South Tower. "It was unbelievable, a very difficult thing to see," he recalls.

Early in the morning in San Francisco, Peter Walker was alerted to the events by his wife, who was in Indiana. Like millions of Americans, he watched as the television networks replayed the scenes. "That's probably one of the most shocking things anyone has ever seen," he remembers thinking.

This is the story of how these three men turned their initial shock into a memorial, transforming the gaping wound in the ground, a reminder of 2,977 lives lost, into a place of serenity, reflection, and grace.

Around the time of 9/11, Mr. Arad, an architect, worked for the New York City Housing Authority. As he thought back on the tragedy later that year, he pulled out his sketch pad. He drew the Hudson River, the World Financial Center, and the marina, all adjacent to the collapsed twin towers. Where the towers would be were two voids, holes in the ground.

Related Monitor video conversation with Michael Arad, 9/11 memorial designer:

"I was intrigued by that idea," he says. "I ... spent a lot of time trying to understand the aesthetic, how the image could be made into reality."

He built a model and took it up on his roof, where he photographed it.

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