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.
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Arad ended up making an anonymous submission to the competition for memorial designs. It was one of 5,201 entries. He envisioned an urban plaza at ground level – unlike the master plan for the site, drawn up by architect Daniel Libeskind, which had the memorial 30 feet below grade.Skip to next paragraph
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Making it all at ground level and completely flat was essential to his plan. "It creates this unified precinct; it marks it as a space," he says.
In the middle of the plain would be the two voids, with water falling into them.
"As you walk up to the body of water, there is a moment of sad comprehension for visitors," he explains. "You understand the scale and magnitude of what happened here."
By 2003, he found out his design was one of eight finalists. But the jury choosing the design was concerned that Arad's proposal seemed austere.
That's where Mr. Walker came in. A landscape architect based in the San Francisco area, he had been involved in other memorials in the past, so he was familiar with the emotional issues, he says. When Arad called him, he agreed to work with him.
The jury of architects, public officials, and citizens deciding which design to use wanted to know if trees could be planted without losing the concept of a plain.
The idea resonated with Walker, who viewed the plain as an important "metaphor for the earth," while "trees, of course, represent life."
By January 2004, Arad and Walker's design was chosen.
The next year, Mr. Daniels, a lawyer who was working for a consulting firm, became general counsel for the nonprofit National September 11 Memorial & Museum. That organization was being formed to raise money for the memorial as well as the museum, which is scheduled to open next year.
Within 10 months, Daniels received a "battlefield" promotion to run the operation. A big part of his job was trying to come to agreement on various issues among many different constituencies – the families of the victims, commercial interests, local residents, the general public, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owned the land.
"You could literally be bogged down forever," he recalls.
In the meantime, Arad began the process of trying to implement the whole concept, which included building two waterfalls that would be the largest man-made ones ever. He wanted each waterfall to be composed of separate strands that meet halfway down.
"It is analogous to how names are commemorated on this memorial where each name has its own autonomy, its own identity, but it's also part of a much greater assembly of names," he says. "This was one of the things that defined the memorial ... the ability to acknowledge both individual loss and the collective loss."
Arad also addressed the thorny issue of how to place the names around the pools. Should they be random? Should they be alphabetical? Should the first responders have their own section?
IN PICTURES: 9/11 memorials around the world
Arad reached out to families to ask what was important to them. "How can we mark that in a memorial," he wondered, "so the placement of the names relative to every other name carried an embedded meaning and might be hidden to many people? But once it's embedded in the design, it can be teased out in many different ways – through a printed guide, an audioguide, through first-person accounts, through curated accounts."
It took two years to settle on the concept of "meaningful adjacencies," where names are placed in a way that reflects families, friends, people who commuted to work together every day, or those who went to school together many years ago. Some 1,200 requests came in from the families, and it took another year to arrange the names.
This resulted in nine groups, representing the four flights that were hijacked, the two towers, the Pentagon, the first responders, and the victims of the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Each group contains smaller groups.