ABSENCE AS PRESENCE
This proposal at once recalls the two destroyed WTC towers and all the individuals who were killed during the terrorist attacks.
Each tower's footprint will be delineated by a double glass perimeter wall, enclosing the absent tower and rendering its space inaccessible -- a sacred area not to be trodden upon. The walls, made of bullet-proof safety glass sheets 1.5" thick, will be 12 ft. high* and ca. a foot deep, with their inner glass sheet a little shorter. Water will fill their inside and cascade gently over their back, from spring to autumn, metaphorically cooling the pits of fire caused by the attack. The floor of each footprint will be lined with smoky gray glass, to reflect the sky and the surrounding buildings. Additionally, during the warm season, the floor could become a shallow reflecting pool quietly rippling from the movement of the encircling cascades.
On the outside of each perimeter wall, just above eye-level, there will be sandblasted** on the glass a double frieze of life-size photographic images -- transparent like spirits -- of all the individuals who perished during the 9/11 (and 1993) attacks, with each person's name, nationality, and birth-death dates above or below their photo (close-up, bottom left). The photographs of the victims, who represent a cross-section of New York's international community, will be selected by their own families*** and could be arranged in alphabetical order, **** starting and ending on the sides where the jetliners hit the towers. The two holes of "ground zero" will be forever encircled by rings of faces, reaffirming life.
At night, each perimeter wall will be lit from below, whether the water is functioning or not (in coordination with the lighting of the adjacent buildings). Thus, every evening the footprints will become walls of light (see bottom center).
This proposal quietly asserts the orthogonal forms of the vanished towers, without intruding on the asymmetric and multi-directional architecture of the Libeskind scheme. Being made of transparent polished materials, the glass enclosures will recall the absence of the past while creating awareness of the present -- reflecting the new buildings, as well as the visitors walking around the walls.
A ca.12-foot wide path, accessible from all entrance points, will surround each tower's footprint***** and lead from one tower to the other, as well as to the other key points in the memorial space (including the slurry wall):
- The area assigned for the unidentified remains against the Liberty St. wall.
- The grove of small trees with individual seats for contemplation at the SW corner of the site.
- And the garden with welcoming bench niches for families and groups of friends, between the September 11 Place and the S. tower footprint.
In both of these areas there could be computer booths for visitors to write messages with memories or thoughts, which could be displayed on screen daily in the museum (and then kept on file).
The space in the middle of the site, softened with lawn, will be left open for vistas towards all parts of the memorial and the surrounding architecture. It will allow easy crowd circulation within the memorial site (see schematic plan of paths), as well as temporary events, including possible recurrence of the "Tribute in Light" on special anniversaries.
A large inscription on Liberty Wall, above the "unidentified remains" area, will state the main facts about the terrorist attacks, and will credit the principal groups that contributed to rescue and relief operations (exact wording to be decided later):
TO REMEMBER THE 3,022 PERSONS OF 92 NATIONALITIES WHO WERE KILLED BY TERRORIST ATTACKS ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 AND FEBRUARY 26, 1993:
2,798 DIED IN THE DESTRUCTION OF NEW YORK'S WORLD TRADE CENTER, 184 IN THE ATTACK ON THE PENTAGON IN WASHINGTON, DC, AND 40 ON THE HIGH-JACKED AIRPLANE THAT CRASHED IN SHANKSVILLE, PA.
TO HONOR ALL THE HEROIC INDIVIDUALS OF THE NEW YORK CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT****
AND THE NEW YORK AND PORT AUTHORITY POLICE DEPARTMENTS WHO RISKED THEIR LIVES RESCUING VICTIMS, AND THANK THE COUNTLESS CONSTRUCTION AND STEEL WORKERS, MEDICAL PERSONNEL, RECOVERY AND RELIEF ORGANIZATIONS AND OTHER PROFESSIONALS
WHO WORKED LONG AND UNTIRINGLY, COPING WITH THE HORROR OF THE ATTACKED SITES
AND EASING THE SUFFERING OF THE SURVIVORS.
(Other appropriate credits, as well as the Memorial Mission Statement, could be also inscribed on this wall.)
- An enlarged image of the towers' explosion, like a huge cloud or an atomic bomb, could be sandblasted** on the glazed wall (see image) along the north perimeter of the memorial site. It will hover, ghost-like, over the north tower's glass enclosure, seen from inside the pedestrian concourse as well. (Alternatively, similar photographs of the explosion could be projected onto the glazed wall at night time.)
- The numerous graffiti made on the temporary plywood ramps by early visitors to the site were so incredibly moving that a selection from them could be inscribed on Lexan railings along the present access ramps, if deemed desirable by the committee and the architects.
* Depending on Mr. Libeskind's final design (and available funding), the height of the walls could be increased to 18 ft. They will basically rise from elevation 278 (or about a foot higher -- whatever is needed for the surrounding lawns and other landscaping).
** Sandblasting of photographic images on granite or glass became available in the early 1980s. It is done through optical lithography (like computer chips) and the "engraved" images can be enhanced with a lasting black dye (or can be left untouched, more softly visible through the lighter contrast of the dulled glass).
*** The sequences of photos used for the close-up and as an evocative border on this panel were randomly selected from the nearly complete display of victims in the New York Times, Sept. 11, 2002, pp. 41-47, on the first anniversary of the attacks.
**** A small logo could be added after the names of the fire fighters and police officers who gave their lives during the rescue operations, to differentiate them from the other victims.
***** The footprints are somewhat reduced on their sides adjacent to the site's boundaries to allow for this passageway.
Copyright Athena Tacha 2003