Remembering and Rebuilding: Ten Years After 9/11

September 11, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Everyone agrees that ten years ago, the world changed forever.  The 10th anniversary of the previously innocuous date of September 11 has been commemorated beautifully and poignantly across the United States of America today to remember those lost in the horrific attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania and reinforce our belief that the majority of people are good, as evidenced by so many selfless acts of courage on that day.  And, we must remember and protect; we can rebuild, and we are strong.

I’ll leave politics to the  politicians, and instead talk about rebuilding and remembering.  Construction of the Freedom Tower continues to move forward, and parts of the National September 11 Memorial should be finished by 2013.

Roberta Cruger of Treehugger reported earlier today on “The 9/11 Memorial & Museum’s Focus on Sustainable Design.”  Focusing  on how design can make us feel is a great way to create a positive experience for a heinous act.  In effect, the entire memorial is a greenroof since it is located over structure – with train station and other facilities 70-feet underneath  street level – and is seeking  LEED Gold certification.

Designed by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker, the 9/11 Memorial at the former site of the World Trade Center features bronze panels engraved with the names of those who died on September 11th and the 1993 bombing, surrounding two 60-foot deep pools – described as “large voids, open and visible reminders of the absence.”

A grove of more than deciduous 400 swamp white oak trees on the Memorial Plaza creates a reflective space with ever changing colors to represent the renewal of life in their natural cycles.  The trees were harvested from within a 500-mile radius of the World Trade Center site, with some from locations in Pennsylvania and near Washington, D.C.  :

“The National September 11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center will bear solemn witness to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993.  The Museum will honor the nearly 3,000 victims of these attacks and all those who risked their lives to save others.” ~ 9/11 Memorial

Two dramatic waterfalls and reflecting pools invite contemplation in the footprints of the Twin Towers.  I’m sure you’ll agree that sustainable design also encompasses the ability to sustain emotional needs and connections to a site.

In the middle of writing this, I received the following messge from our dear  friends  Wendy and Chris Wark in New York City, who allowed me to quote them and use the photo below which Chris took off their balcony this evening:

“On this day of reflection we are left with the confusing and challenging detritus of grief.   How do we as a nation move forward?   How do we as fellow human beings sharing a common planet look to the future?   We know that in grief, in shock there is little but a shrill overwhelming scream that cannot, regardless of its volume shut out the reality of loss.   We also know that with an open heart one finds healing, the opportunity to love again, the chance for peace.   It is in hope of a future that is predicated on justice rather than revenge and healing rather than fear that we are sending this message – this image.   This is what we can see from our home, an amazing array of lights narrowing to a beacon and a focal point which we choose to see as a lighted path to a future that is sane.

Our prayer is that with each day more people can see how each of our actions cause a response; that we are all responsible for our perceptions of each other and that, in the end we are able to discern between self-righteousness and universal rights.  We also pray for healing.  Your healing and our healing.” ~ Wendy and Chris Wark

See  Steven Spielberg’s video The Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero on the Discovery Channel below:

While many of us associate 9/11 with the attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, let’s not forget the other two sites where innocent and brave people gave their lives: the Pentagon and an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  The total number of victims included 246 on the four planes, 2,606 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon.  In particular,  I’d like to point out the  25 flight attendants who acted as first responders. Along with the eight pilots, a total of 33 crewmembers reacted immediately and selflessly, and lost their lives on that day as well.

Those of you who know me well, or at least who have read my short bio in  About Us,  know that in addition to being principal of I have also been an international flight attendant for almost 32 years – and so I can relate to this event on many levels.

President Obama and the First Lady today visited each of the three memorials that have been erected on the sites where the planes crashed and later attended “A Concert for Hope” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

A day of national remembrance ends with reflection and healing.  Healing continues with honoring by remembering and rebuilding – of physical places and more importantly with intellectual philosophies and emotional assumptions and convictions.

As I blogged about 9/11 back in 2008, it’s important for us all to continue to  Remember, Honor, Renew…and Imagine a world of compassion and acceptance.

~Linda V.


Remember, Honor, Renew…and Imagine.

September 11, 2008 at 10:58 pm

As an airline employee  I’ve flown now on numerous 9/11 anniversaries, including today, returning from Orlando this morning from visiting my beautiful  daughter, Anjuli.   Days after this other day which will also live on in infamy, we were given lapel pins which read “Remember, Honor, Renew” and I’ve worn it ever since on my uniform in remembrance.  You can’t help but Remember the horrific events of September, 11, 2001 – the panic, the disbelief, the heroic actions of so many, the souls lost, the families separated within this lifetime, and also the rather selfish line of  “Where were you on this date?” which people love to go on about.

So today on Patriot Day here in the Untied States we Honor the people from around the world whose lives were lost on U.S. soil here in New York, Washington, D.C.  and Pennsylvannia  because of what, obvious acts of aggression and extreme violence which equate to social/psychological/political intolerance? religious fanaticism? or perceived meritorious acts of moral justice or superiority?   Maybe also a combination of these  and ideals from a  certain small but albeit powerful faction of Muslim separatism, an extreme type of eco-centrism, and a belief that these terrorist acts are selfless,  divine, and which according to these fanatics  result in the extinction of evil and the promotion of greater good?   I recently read about “The Romantic Ideal”  pertaining to The Holy War, which on one website states,

“Muslims emphatically insist that the Jihad, or Holy War, was only a means of defence and was never used as an offensive act…”

I don’t pretend to know much about it, but I do know that many Muslims were dismayed and appalled at these actions.   Read much more on the war on behalf of Islam.

We also need to Honor everyone who reacted immediately with selfless acts – specifically the brave firefighters, police, and unnamed civilian heroes, and afterwards  also to those of all races, creeds and nationalities who spoke against these inhumane actions – thank you!

So how about Renew part?   Let’s continue the healing process to renew our faith in human beings –  as neighbors carpooling each other’s kids to individuals influencing our local and national political candidates – to ourselves as citizens of the world.    If we understand that we all live on one Earth, we can extend this  committment to renewing our stewardship of our own planet – I mean, if we’re going to renew something, there’s nothing more sustainable for the long term than “live locally, act globally!”

When I put my pin on this morning it occurred to me, as a former student of landscape architecture back in the late 90’s and now as an ecological designer of greenroofs and green walls, that “Remember, Honor, Renew” is also a great philosophy in terms of environmental design.   We are taught to look at a site’s history, both physical and cultural, to determine the “genius loci” or spirit of place as a basis of design.   So from this perspective we can create a spiritual connection to the past in addition to promoting a renewal of ideals and ecological principles for the future, and really express the true nature of a site.

But the Imagine piece of the equation came to me from a rather personal perspective, but one that fits this new amended motto of “Remember, Honor, Renew…and Imagine.”   Our oldest son, Joey, celebrated his first anniversary with his wife, Korinne, in late July, and he picked out John Lennon’s “Imagine” as our wedding song together as mother and son – talk about a tear jerker!   It seemed the perfect fit for my firstborn who has grown into a young creative man with high ideals, so why not for the more jaded of us, too:

“Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one” ~ John Lennon, 1971

Unrealistic utopia?   Can we truly live as one?   Could we ever live without possessions?   I doubt it – who knows.   But the sentiment is real and  parents pass on their beliefs and dreams for the future to their children, and we as designers  also have the  responsibility to pass on this type of holistic thinking to our clients and colleagues, don’t you think?

Imagine a world working in tandem to combat issues as seemingly unimportant  as a specific  religion (God is God, right?) or political theology to more pressing ones such as global warming (Nature as God perhaps?) and freedom, peace and safety for all.

So, “Remember, Honor, Renew…and Imagine.”   Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, maybe the new Freedom Tower which will replace New York’s World Trade Center (finished by 2011 or so)  will embrace this new credo, but we certainly don’t have to wait until then to continue believing in ourselves and each other,  and imagining a better future, do we?

Linda V.