I arrived by ship to New York as a teenager, an immigrant, and
like millions of others before me, my first sight was the Statue
of Liberty and the amazing skyline of Manhattan. I have never
forgotten that sight or what it stands for. This is what this
project is all about.
When I first began this project, New Yorkers were divided as
to whether to keep the site of the World Trade Center empty or
to fill the site completely and build upon it. I meditated many
days on this seemingly impossible dichotomy. To acknowledge the
terrible deaths which occurred on this site, while looking to
the future with hope, seemed like two moments which could not
be joined. I sought to find a solution which would bring these
seemingly contradictory viewpoints into an unexpected unity. So,
I went to look at the site, to stand within it, to see people
walking around it, to feel its power and to listen to its voices.
And this is what I heard, felt and saw.
The great slurry walls are the most dramatic elements which survived
the attack, an engineering wonder constructed on bedrock foundations
and designed to hold back the Hudson River. The foundations withstood
the unimaginable trauma of the destruction and stand as eloquent
as the Constitution itself asserting the durability of Democracy
and the value of individual life.
We have to be able to enter this hallowed, sacred ground while
creating a quiet, meditative and spiritual space. We need to journey
down, some 70 feet into Ground Zero, onto the bedrock foundation,
a procession with deliberation into the deep indelible footprints
of Tower One and Tower Two.
The foundation, however, is not only the story of tragedy but
also reveals the dimensions of life. The PATH trains continue
to traverse this ground now, as before, linking the past to the
future. Of course, we need a Museum at the epicenter of Ground
Zero, a museum of the event, of memory and hope. The Museum becomes
the entrance into Ground Zero, always accessible, leading us down
into a space of reflection, of meditation, a space for the Memorial
itself. This Memorial will be the result of an international competition.
Those who were lost have become heroes. To commemorate those
lost lives, I created two large public places, the Park of Heroes
and the Wedge of Light. Each year on September 11th between the
hours of 8:46 a.m., when the first airplane hit and 10:28 a.m.,
when the second tower collapsed, the sun will shine without shadow,
in perpetual tribute to altruism and courage.
We all came to see the site, more than 4 million of us, walking
around it, peering through the construction wall, trying to understand
that tragic vastness. So I designed an elevated walkway, a space
for a Memorial promenade encircling the memorial site. Now everyone
can see not only Ground Zero but the resurgence of life.
The exciting architecture of the new Lower Manhattan rail station
with a concourse linking the PATH trains, the subways connected,
hotels, a performing arts center, office towers, underground malls,
street level shops, restaurants, cafes; create a dense and exhilarating
affirmation of New York.
The sky will be home again to a towering spire of 1776 feet high,
the "Gardens of the World". Why gardens? Because gardens
are a constant affirmation of life. A skyscraper rises above its
predecessors, reasserting the pre-eminence of freedom and beauty,
restoring the spiritual peak to the city, creating an icon that
speaks of our vitality in the face of danger and our optimism
in the aftermath of tragedy.