A lot of people who lost family members on 9/11 will have a hard time even coming to look at the memorial plans. I know when I saw the designs for the first time, I was emotionally overwhelmed. It's hard when you don't have a grave for your wife. There are thousands of us who have no graves for our loved ones.
The designs that I like the most are those that involve the use of light as their theme. I realized I like these because it's all about light vs. dark, good vs. evil. It was evil piloting those airplanes, yet at the moment they penetrated their target, good won. People helped people wherever they could; a doomed person on the 102nd floor helped and comforted another doomed person; firefighters, many times throwing caution to the wind and doing anything they could, rescued people; the people in my neighborhood in Greenwich Village comforted me for weeks on end after the disaster. This is how good won over evil.
I didn't view the memorial finalists looking for "item a" or "item b." I wanted to see the designs and let them talk to me. Then, I'll look to see what specific features they have, such as access to bedrock, etc.
When you walk into a memorial, especially this one, you should feel something, like when you walk into one of the great cathedrals of the world such as St. John the Divine here in New York or St. Paul's or Westminster Abby in London. You should not have to think. Thinking is for the museum. This is all about feeling. It's about spirituality.
I believe there are people who initially will be angry about whatever memorial they see. That's because they are still going through the grieving process, and everybody goes through that. But I do believe that when the memorial is finished, most of the people will come around and like it. Those who are shouting about the fact that they don't like this and they want to have that are a vocal minority. I respect their views, but I don't appreciate the fact that they are trying to preempt the jury process to advance their own views.
I've fought to be part of the process the Lower Manhattan Development has established. I'm better off if I'm part of it than if I just let what happens happen around me. The Family Advisory Council is a group of people that have been asked to advise the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. We respect each other, but we also have differences of opinion. And we have a say. Before I was on the Council, it drafted the Memorial Mission Statement and Program for the memorial competition, and only then did the jury select the designs.
I don't believe I'd be qualified to be on that jury.
I think the public should definitely voice their opinion, because I believe that it will filter back to the jury. But, there are lots of times the public is wrong about things. One of the definitions of a good leader is he sometimes has to take his people in a direction they don't know they need to go. And in a sense here, the jury has to be a leader. In that sense, a republic works better than a democracy: in this case because you have a qualified representative to do it for you. The jury is our representative.
Charles Wolf is a member of the Family Advisory Council to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation which advises on rebuilding issues including the memorial process. His wife was killed on 9/11. This essay was adapted from an interview.
Also In This Series• The Eight 9/11 Memorial Designs
• Rethink The Type Of Memorial We Want - by Max Page
• Let The Memorial Jury Do Its Work - by Charles G. Wolf
• We're Being Shut Out Of The Process - by Rosalen Tallon
The Eight Memorial Finalists• Votives in Suspension (Norman Lee and Michael Lewis)
• Inversion of Light (Toshio Sasaki)
• Garden of Lights (Pierre David, Sean Corriel, Jessica Kmetovic)
• Suspending Memory (Joseph Karadin, Hsin-Yi Wu)
• Lower Waters (Bradley Campbell, Matthias Neumann)
• Dual Memory (Brian Stawn, Karla Sierralta)
• Passages of Light: The Memorial Cloud (bbc art + architecture)
• Reflecting Absence: A Memorial at the World Trade Center Site (Michael Arad)