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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.

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In some instances, it was necessary to place the end of one group next to another group. For example, two brothers, John and Joseph Vigiano, both died on 9/11. One was a firefighter; one was a police officer. "We knew we would have to end one group here and start another group there to allow the two names to be placed next to each other," Arad says.

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While he was working on the names, Walker was trying to find the right trees for New York City. "New York is a very, very tough place for a tree to grow," he says. "The trees are not in loamy soil with perfect drainage and irrigation and all that kind of stuff, so they get stressed."

Nonetheless, the trees became an integral part of the design. Walker ended up using white oaks. He adds, "We wanted the trees to have straight trunks that go up and branch out in a vase shape so when you go down the row, they would form a kind of Gothic arch, which is referring to the arches that were at the base of the World Trade Center originally."

As Walker and Arad fine-tuned their plans, Daniels was raising money. As of mid-August, donors in all 50 states and 60 countries had contributed $406 million, enough money to open the memorial this year and the museum next year.

"This memorial, this project, is going to define part of this country forever, and people have a very natural and positive instinct to want to be part of it," says Daniels, who is trying to raise another $20 million. All total, after public funding, the project will cost $700 million.

In addition to the memorial, construction has been going full-bore on several commercial projects in the area, including One World Trade Center and Four World Trade Center. As of late August, 1 WTC was 80 stories high (out of 104), and the other building was 48 stories.

Under the master plan for the site, no morning shadow from any of the buildings will fall on the memorial on this and future Sept. 11s.

Immediately after 9/11, Arad remembers walking to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. Scores of other New Yorkers, mostly strangers, came together to come to terms with the attacks. "That is to me what I remember about 9/11 – the courage and compassion and resilience that New Yorkers showed," he says.

He can envision his memorial having the same impact. "I can see someone sitting here in that once-in-a-lifetime moment and having an incredible emotional experience, and somebody sitting there eating their lunch and then going across the street to their office. Those two experiences not only can exist, but should," he says.

Daniels hopes that the memorial helps the families – that once they see the names of their loved ones and the respect accorded them, it will help bring some peace. This summer, he says, he took a woman – now raising her three sons who had lost their dad in the tragedy – to the memorial site when the waterfalls were being tested.

"Just to see her reaction to it and the sense of all the different people, all the different occupations that have been working towards memorializing her husband and her kids' father – it was a very uplifting feeling for her. And hopefully, it is representative of how family members in general take it in," says Daniels.

Walker hopes that the memorial and plaza feel like a great cathedral to visitors.

"When you think about it, when you go in it's very deliberative," he explains. "Then ... it's all about going out into the world again, and you are refreshed.... You know that life does go on."

IN PICTURES: 9/11 memorials around the world

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