|Aerial view rendering of the memorial and museum.|
|Joe Daniels L'98, president and chief executive officer of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, has led the effort to pay tribute to the fallen in New York City. Here he stands before one of the two reflecting pools on the site of the memorial. As a witness to the tragedy and a Manhattan resident, Daniels took the project to heart.|
|One of the most somber aspects of the memorial (as seen on top) are the two long bronze panels with the names of victims of 9/11. The panels are on the perimeters of the two reflecting pools. Below are images of the 9/11 museum, which is scheduled to open on Sept. 11, 2012. The purpose of the museum is to educate visitors about the roots and history of 9/11 through exhibits and artifacts. Portions of the original foundations of the Twin Towers will be on display.|
Sitting in his office overlooking the site, Daniels relives the day.
He had stepped off the E train to visit a client in a building across the street from the World Trade Center. He remembers looking up and seeing a raging fire and gaping black hole in the North Tower. He recalls hearing a massive explosion and watching a fireball rip through the South Tower. He recollects witnessing desperate people jump from windows 1,000 feet above ground and plunging to their deaths. And he remembers the piercing screams of bystanders who saw the South Tower collapse.
Three thousand six hundred and fifty-two days later, Daniels performed the ultimate act of remembrance by overseeing the opening of a memorial on 9/11/11 – the 10th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.
The thought of it fills Daniels, president and chief executive officer of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, with awe. Daniels describes the memorial as a sacred site, both inspirational and educational. He projects it will draw up to four to five million visitors per year. Even before it opened its doors, guests included President Obama, Queen Elizabeth and Pope Benedict XVI.
If it meets those projections, the memorial and museum will be the most visited attraction in a city filled with them.
But, of course, it will be more than just another tourist attraction.
"The memorial is about the individuals who died that day... who simply get up every morning and go to work," says Daniels.
"People will be able to see that a lot of care was put in by a lot of people to produce something that is going to be a permanent part of New York City, and people from around the world are going to be visiting and thinking about what happened on that day."
The memorial will feature two reflecting pools in the exact footprints of the towers. Each will contain 30-foot-high manmade waterfalls – the largest in the United States. But what people will likely remember – and be affected by the most – are the bronze panels around the perimeter of the pools. Cut into those panels will be the names of all of the victims of the 9/11 and 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center, as well as the names of those who lost their lives on Flight 93 and at the Pentagon.
A year to the day later, the museum will open. While 70 feet below street level, one of the striking features will be very much above ground. A large pavilion with a glass atrium will house two 80–foot–high tridents – both are artifacts of the North Tower's original steel façade, and resemble giant hands reaching for the sky. In addition, the museum will be home to an exclusive collection of photographs, audio and video tapes, recorded testimonies and personal belongings, such as a charred pocketbook with lipstick and rosary beads, firefighters' helmets, and mud-encrusted boots. There also will be two private areas for victims' families – one where they can store memorabilia and another for unidentified remains.
At $700 million, the project has required a huge fund-raising effort, in addition to initial state and federal funding. As of June 2011,nearly 400,000 donors have contributed close to $400 million. Donations have come from all 50 states and 39 countries, including Spain, Mexico, Portugal and Russia.
The project also required infinite patience. Originally scheduled for completion in 2009, the memorial ran into a number of roadblocks. As Daniels explains, a project of this magnitude and complexity demanded extraordinary levels of coordination among government, private entities and various stakeholders.
It also faced a number of logistical and engineering obstacles, from bringing to grade a 16-acre, 70-foot-deep hole to working around trains running through the site.
But from Daniels' perspective, all the frustration and toil will be worth it if the 9/11 Memorial and Museum reminds people of their common humanity. People from 92 nations – almost half the world's countries – were lost on 9/11. They came to work every day, at the World Trade Center, in pursuit of the American dream. And now, ten years later, they will be commemorated.
Daniels remembers the carnage, the human toll, the confusion, the fear and all of the emotions that overtook him and the country on 9/11. But he also remembers the sacrifice, the compassion and the sense of unity that followed the attacks.
And he hopes the memorial and museum reignite those feelings.
"It feels almost like a pilgrimage to come to that site," says Daniels. "To remind people of that connection, I think that has the potential to be very powerful."