Question about Changing Meaning of 9/11 Memorial Print
Letters To The Editor
Saturday, 12 March 2011 00:42

Question about Changing Meaning of 9/11 Memorial

Daily Collegian (University of Massachusetts), 10/6/2010

Dear Editor,

Last week, I attended a talk by Michael Arad, the designer of the World Trade Center’s September 11 Memorial called “Reflecting Absence.” This talk was sponsored by the Architecture and Design program at the University of Massachusetts and it touched on many aspects of the design evolution from conceptualization through the nuts and bolts of construction and on to which trees would provide the best canopy for pedestrians.

He related his belief in the power and appropriateness of his design during the competition even though the odds against it selection had been daunting. He related the frustrations and triumphs in working with other stakeholders to achieve a design that would be meaningful, enduring and most important, meet the building codes and public safety requirements.

He talked about concepts he had learned from his professors and how he had synthesized them. He emphasized that everything needed to be addressed in the design stage, because once it is finalized, you can’t be told, for example, that it needs a railing, because that would change the perspective of the entire memorial.

After the formal talk, he asked for questions and I took the opportunity to pose one that intrigues me. I began my question stating that “the meaning of memorials change as the understanding of the event evolves over time. The event that this memorial recalls is the death of thousands of people after planes hit the building, creating fires that led to their complete and catastrophic collapse down into their basements.” I identified myself as a registered professional engineer and one of over 1300 architects and engineers that believe that the evidence is overwhelming that the three skyscrapers were, in fact, destroyed by controlled demolition using pre-planted explosives. I continued, “How will the meaning of this memorial change as those irrefutable facts become more well-known?” Arad declined to answer that question stating his disagreement with my premise.

While disappointed with his response, I sat half-listening to other questions while I silently recounted my own evolving experiences with another memorial – the Vietnam Memorial. My first visit was in 1985 shortly after its completion. At that time it was a place to remember individuals; to touch the small voids in the wall that spelled their names; to reflect on the void that their sacrifices left in their world. It was a place to remember individual losses and sacrifices. Over the years as I learned more about the Vietnam War including the deceit behind the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the meaning of the memorial shifted to the immensity of the tragedy. In recent years as I have advocated for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and learned that if the wall were to be expanded to include veterans that committed suicide upon their return, it would need to be two to six times larger. So now, to me, the meaning of that memorial has become a symbol that calls out for peace, truth and justice so that such a senseless war never occurs again.

As I reflect on the design that Michael Arad has brought forth, I believe that because of its focus on loss and remembrance it will be an enduring design whose meaning can grow and adapt as our understanding of the events of that day in 2001 evolve. I look forward to experiencing it once it is open to the public.

Wayne H. Coste, P.E.
Tariffville, CT
Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth