The aftermath of the 9/11 attacks persists more than 16 years later in the spate of life-threatening illnesses and the all-too-regularly-reported deaths of people who were exposed to World Trade Center toxins. It is estimated that more than 400,000 men and women — or four times the population of Albany — were exposed to contaminants on 9/11 and during rescue and recovery operations that lasted for months at the site of devastation known as Ground Zero.
The 9/11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center is determined to build greater awareness about this unabating health crisis. It will take an important step forward Wednesday when the institution unveils renderings of the design concept for a permanent and substantial modification to the 9/11 Memorial intended to recognize everyone who is suffering from 9/11-related diseases.
This evolution of the memorial design will honor those who have died and acknowledge the many who will succumb to related illnesses. It will also recognize the tremendous capacity of the human spirit, as exemplified during the rescue, recovery and relief efforts following the 9/11 attacks.
This new dedicated space, which will be integrated within the memorial’s design but will be distinct, is centered on the grassy area of the memorial called the glade at the southwest side of the plaza.
“This design creates a new pathway through that beautiful, tranquil space that roughly mirrors the location of the main ramp used by the rescue and recovery workers through their herculean nine-month effort — through which these men and women toiled and sacrificed, and in so doing provided hope and inspiration to the nation,” said Michael Arad, who with Peter Walker designed the space. The two are the original designers of the 9/11 Memorial.
Along this path, six large stone elements will break the surface of the plaza. The stones are worn and broken, but not beaten; they appear to jut up and out of the plaza as if violently displaced, and convey strength and resistance, Arad said in his design statement.
Just as the history of the site did not end with what happened on 9/11, this design suggests that our understanding of 9/11 is not static, that it is continuous and evolving. An inscription, anticipated to incorporate World Trade Center steel, will be developed to complement the physical design.
Wednesday’s announcement of the design concept coincides with the 16th anniversary of the formal end of recovery operations at the World Trade Center site. Last year, on the 15th anniversary of this milestone, we were joined by 9/11 Memorial board Chairman Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Cuomo, 9/11 health advocate John Feal and others to publicly announce our commitment to integrating this permanent commemorative feature of the 9/11 Memorial.
We reaffirm that commitment and, with a conceptual design complete, we are also announcing the expansion of a capital fund-raising effort to support its construction. We are grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies, the State of New York and the building trade unions for providing initial funding.
Each year, millions of people from around the world visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. As part of their visit, they learn about the health impacts of 9/11 and how they shatter families and cut lives short. They learn that the story of 9/11 is still present today, and, for some, it is not in the past all.
Those suffering from WTC-related health effects, their families and their friends confront a very present 9/11 reality. And, we at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum recognize our obligation to tell their stories, too. It is vital that they are told.
A new generation — already in high school — was not yet born when the tragic events of 9/11 took place. Yet, their world continues to be shaped by the attacks and their aftermath. There is no better example of the ongoing impacts of that terrible day than the national health crisis affecting those who are sick or dying.
The shared goal is to ensure that this meaningful space will be appropriately integrated within the memorial, where it belongs. Our duty to posterity is to preserve the complete history of 9/11, including its continuing impacts and far-reaching implications in today’s world. We understand this to be a sacred obligation, one that is nothing less than a privilege to honor.