The National September 11 Memorial & Museum has unveiled plans for a new on-site memorial dedicated to those rescue and workers who have suffered health problems or died after being exposed to toxic chemicals from the World Trade Center.
“As a recovery worker and the wife of a first responder, it gives me a sense of peace to know that there will be a place dedicated to honoring our story,” said 9/11 Memorial Museum docent Sonia Agron in a statement. She and her husband, retired NYPD officer Jose Argon, have suffered from cancer and other illnesses after assisting with the recovery efforts. “We cannot get back what 9/11 took from us, but to know we will have a place of honor on the Memorial to call our own is deeply meaningful.”
The plans, released yesterday on the 16th anniversary of the formal end to Ground Zero’s rescue and recovery operations, include a pathway flanked by six stones to be added to the southwest corner of the memorial. Michael Arad and Peter Walker, who designed the existing plaza, with its somber reflecting pools, will also be responsible for the new space, dubbed the Memorial Glade.
“These stones are rough and worn, and their angle suggests a forceful resistance, an answer to the violence that brought them forth,” said Arad of the design in a statement. The stones represent “firmness, stability and faithfulness through adversity, pointing skyward, referencing how the recovery cleared the way for rebuilding and renewal.”
The memorial’s new pathway will lead, fittingly, to the Survivor Tree, a pear tree that improbably survived the 9/11 attacks and has been replanted on the plaza as a symbol of the city’s resilience. The design, which will include steel from the original World Trade Center, is inspired by the ramp used by workers during the recovery efforts.
Fundraising efforts for the addition memorial, first announced last year, will be led by comedian Jon Stewart, who is chairing this year’s 9/11 Memorial & Museum 5A Run/Walk and Community Day. New York State, the Building Trade Unions and Bombard Philanthropies will also help fund the project.
“These men and women sacrificed themselves for the rest of us, and have spent years suffering and dying because of it,” Stewart said at the unveiling. “Hopefully this will become a place of solace, a place of belonging, and a place of gathering where you can experience the comfort of each other’s company and the knowledge that this story will be told indelibly, in stone.”
The Memorial Glade will stand as a reminder that the devastating effects of 9/11 continued long after the site was cleared and the memorial was built. Many first responders and recovery workers, as well as those who lived and worked near the World Trade Center, have developed cancer and other debilitating diseases, some fatal, in the years since the attacks.
“The shared goal is to ensure that this meaningful space will be appropriately integrated within the memorial, where it belongs,” Stewart said in a joint op-ed with Alice Greenwald, the president and CEO of the Memorial & Museum, published yesterday in the New York Daily News. “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.”
“Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to have been exposed to toxins at the World Trade Center site, both on the day of 9/11 and during the months of recovery operations that followed,” added Greenwald in a statement. “We seek to recognize all those for whom 9/11 has remained an all-too-present reality.”
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