As the sunken U.S.S. Arizona is forever inseparable from December
7, 1941, so too the WTC facades became the most poignant reminders
of 9/11. In the weeks and months following the attacks, the shattered
trident columns were transformed from horrific remnants to steel
shards of comfort and resolve. They are icons to be passed onto
future generations for whom there will be no individual connection
to 9/11 and physical proof will become the most effective testimony
to history. We, the caretakers of these icons, have the utmost responsibility
to return them to their contextual setting so that history will
not be forgotten, and the horrific deeds of 9/11 will not be repeated.
Numerous articles were published
in the weeks following the attacks that extolled the virtue of reinstalling
the facades in their original setting, within a larger memorial.
Remnants of cathedrals and war-torn buildings from around the world
were cited as evidence that surviving remnants can provide the most
effective, affirmative testimonial to history. Government officials,
memorial designers, and the general public were put on notice on
how to treat these items of national heritage. This can still happen.
The trident pillars can surround
the WTC memorial's two footprints without compromising the selected
WTC memorial design, Reflecting Absence. Merging the facades into
that design will also have an added benefit, allowing the viewer
to imagine the lost Towers above the steel remnants. That visual
effect is indeed absent in the current design. They will also provide
context for a tower named "Freedom" that is to be the
Twin Towers' soaring elegy.
The concept of Reflecting Absence that was originally presented
to the jury and the public in early January 2004 was straightforward:
two pool-filled, street-level voids that demarcated the outlines
of the Twin Towers. Yet as the details emerged, the jurors and public
discovered that there were disturbing and seemingly unnecessary
variations. The voids were smaller than the tower footprints. The
voids were not perfectly aligned with the actual footprints. The
voids included the L-shaped ramps that frame them, taking the public
to lower levels. The voids were simple squares that ignored the
Twin Towers' distinctive chamfered corners. Nevertheless, Reflecting
Absence's central message is, here are the Twin Tower footprints.
The voids can yet be modified to include the Tower facades and to
faithfully demarcate the footprints.
The public has been shown aerial
views of Reflecting Absence since this is the only perspective that
conveys the concept of two void footprints. However, the footprints
will largely disappear at street level, where the majority of the
public will experience the memorial. For example, it will be impossible
to see both footprints simultaneously. Moreover, trees may obscure
the memorial entirely for those people passing by in cars and buses.
As the years go by, the memorial will simply become a tranquil tree-lined
park with water-filled pools. This will not be the case if the facades
are reinstalled around the footprints. Additionally, the facades
will more accurately convey the size of the buildings and start
the viewer's eye on a path to the sky above, thus allowing the observer
to imagine the vertical space once occupied by the Twin Towers.
Reflecting Absence will not produce that visual effect as currently
It would also be appropriate to erect replica facade at the WTC
site. Cities all over the world have constructed replica structures
to replace that which was destroyed by war, nature, or through other
acts. Since it is unlikely that there will be enough salvaged facade
to surround both footprints, new replica facade could surround one
and salvaged facade the other - an ideal solution for demarking
both. The replica facade would not include glass windows but only
be comprised of the trident columns and chamfered corners. The replica
facade would be evenly trimmed to a similar height as the salvaged
facade. The effect would be startling both visually and emotionally:
silvery new facade juxtaposed against the charred red remains of
the original facade.
In their original setting, the burned and twisted skeletons of steel,
along with the replica facade, will be timeless evidence to the
horror of 9/11. The mission can be accomplished with leadership
and vision. However, if we fail in this task, we will complete what
the terrorists began, a total destruction of the Twin Towers.
of Western democracy, the Parthenon in Athens, was reduced to a
mere skeleton when it was attacked on September 26, 1687. Yet it
still embodies freedom, beauty and inspiration. Our predecessors
recognized these qualities and protected the remnants. Let us give
this same gift to future generations by preserving the WTC facades.