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September 11, 2011 11:00 am

The Inspiration Behind the Ground Zero Memorial

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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Michael Arad

Michael Arad is a London born, Israeli American, who says of his response to witnessing the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center that “in an instant I became a New Yorker.”

Arad was chosen as the architect of the National September 11 Memorial, formally opened on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack.  He has created a monument of “peace and introspection,” empty, yet filled with the sounds of life giving water and a belief in the future symbolized by growing trees.  In the virtually empty eight acres of the memorial, flowing water serves as “a marker of time.” The passage of time and the changing of seasons is further recalled in the changing leaves of hundreds of trees symbolizes the passage of the seasons. The flow of water is the first sound that meets the visitors’ senses.

Chosen from among more than 5200 submissions, Arad’s design provides a separation from the movement and hubbub of the city.  It offers emptiness, a void, providing a quiet respite in an area dominated by structures again reaching for the sky. The construction involved the cooperative efforts of several partners, including the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and Peter Walker and Partners, Architects, and took eight years to complete.

Arad is the son of a former Israeli ambassador and served in the IDF.  He has followed a pathway which has taken him through what he calls a “process of discovery” and has been at work on the design of the 9 11 memorial for eight years, creating a space with “a quiet and stoic defiance,” which he says reflects the response of New York.

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Just prior to the 4th Annual Benefit Dinner of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum  honoring those responsible for the selection of his design and supporting the creation of the 9/11 memorial, Arad told the Algemeiner that the project which he termed “challenging,” has “taken on its own life.”  Though a difficult project, he said it was filled with the “resolve to move forward.”  In creating the design, Arad said he sought to recognize the sense of individual loss, yet providing “an island” that emphasized the sense of collective loss.

Arad emphasized that his design – as are memory and loss – is universal.  “What happened that day happened to all New Yorkers, and I responded to it as a New Yorker.”

Former Governor George Pataki, in the midst of his campaign for a second term, was in New York City the day the Towers were hit. “New York and America were under attack,” he recalled in an interview with Fox News. Within minutes, he said, “the State emergency services were up and running.”  The governor said many friends were among the thousands of people just looking to go about their daily lives,” when they were the victims of a “vicious attack.”

In speaking about Arad’s design he noted that it “was chosen for simplicity and purity,” the Governor, who serves as the Chairman of the National September 11 Memorial told the Algemeiner that it was “a wonderful place to come, one that “allows people to find quiet and understanding, to gain a sense of solace and connection to the larger family.”

“How can you have a comedian (referring to “opener,” Billy Crystal) at an event to raise money for a memorial?” asked Mayor Michael Bloomberg when he took the podium at the commemorative evening.  It is important to maintain the human spirit. “Human beings can grieve, but have to have a life and go on to build a better life for the future.” His words seemed to echo the spirit of renewal so integral to Jewish mourning rituals.

The Mayor spoke of the “Survivor’s Tree” pulled from the rubble, burnt and broken, then nurtured back to health by Parks Department specialists. “Like New York, this tree refused to die…and is a reminder of the first 9-11…We all endured, we all prevailed.” Continuing his words on the theme of renewal, Bloomberg described Arad’s design as one that reminds “of people no longer here, of the suffering of the families…and, also, of moving forward.”

On that terrible September morning, 343 members of the Fire Department of New York, 27 officers of the New York Police Department, and 34 Port Authority Police officers were lost.

Two Thousand, Nine Hundred and Eighty Three were murdered September 11, 2001.  May they rest peacefully; may the families be comforted.

May peace be upon us all.

Robert Iger, president and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company received the Distinction in Corporate Citizenship award, presented by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Former NYS Governor George Pataki introduced Michael Arad to Mrs. Libby Pataki on the steps at Cipriani Wall Street. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

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  • Shirley kaner

    A most appropriate and touching memorial. Now, survivors and have an exquisite,peaceful place to mourn and touch. Mazel Tov, Michael , on your design!

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