Formerly the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum was formed as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation to raise funds and manage the memorial’s planning and construction. Its board of directors met for the first time on January 4, 2005, and it reached its first-phase capital-fundraising goal ($350 million) in April 2008. This money and additional funds raised will be used to build the memorial and museum and endow the museum.
In 2003, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation launched the World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition, an international competition to design a memorial at the World Trade Center site to commemorate the lives lost on 9/11. Individuals and teams from around the world submitted design proposals. On November 19, 2003, the thirteen-member jury selected eight finalists. Reflecting Absence, designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker, was chosen as the winning design on January 6, 2004. It consists of a field of trees interrupted by two large, recessed pools, the footprints of the Twin Towers. The deciduous trees (swamp white oaks) are arranged in rows and form informal clusters, clearings and groves. The park is at street level, above the Memorial Museum. The names of the victims of the attacks (including those from the Pentagon, American Airlines Flight 77, United Airlines Flight 93, and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing) are inscribed on the parapets surrounding the waterfalls in an arrangement of “meaningful adjacencies”. A portion of the slurry wall originally designed to hold back the Hudson River, about half of what Daniel Libeskind originally wanted to preserve, is maintained in the museum. On January 14, 2004, the final design for the World Trade Center site memorial was unveiled at a press conference in Federal Hall National Memorial.
As mandated by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation owns, operates and finances the Reflecting Absence Memorial and the Museum. John C. Whitehead, chair of the LMDC and the foundation, announced his resignation in May 2006 and was replaced at the LMDC by former president Kevin Rampe. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg replaced Whitehead as chair of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Foundation executive committee chair Thomas S. Johnson said on May 9, 2006:
The decision was made to not actively pursue new fund-raising efforts until complete clarity can be achieved with respect to the design and costs of the project. Cost concerns emerged publicly last week with the disclosure of an estimate by the construction manager, Lend Lease Group, that the memorial and museum would cost $672 million and that it would take a total of at least $973 million to fully develop the memorial setting with a cooling plant, roadways, sidewalks, utilities and stabilized foundation walls. An estimate earlier this year put the cost of the memorial and memorial museum at $494 million.
On May 26, 2006, Gretchen Dykstra resigned as president and chief executive officer of the World Trade Center Foundation. The current president and CEO of the foundation, Joseph C. Daniels, was appointed in October 2006. The memorial projects were toned down, and the budget was cut to $530 million. Construction of the memorial began in August 2006 and, despite delays, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum was confident that it would be completed by September 11, 2011.
On March 13, 2006, construction workers arrived at the WTC site to begin work on the Reflecting Absence design. Relatives of the victims and other concerned citizens gathered to protest the new memorial that day, saying that it should be built above ground. The president of the memorial foundation said that family members were consulted and formed a consensus in favor of the design, and work would continue as planned. In May, estimated construction costs for the Memorial were reported to have risen to over $1 billion. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “There’s just not an unlimited amount of money that we can spend on a memorial. Any figure higher than $500 million would be inappropriate.”
In 2006, at the request of Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki, builder Frank Sciame performed a month-long analysis which included input from victims’ families, the lower Manhattan business and residential communities, architects and members of the memorial-competition jury. The analysis recommended design changes which kept the memorial and museum within a $500 million budget.
In July 2008, the Survivors’ Staircase was lowered to bedrock, making it the first artifact to be moved into the museum. By the end of August, the footings and foundations were completed. On September 2 construction workers raised the 7,700-pound (3,500 kg) first column for the memorial, near the footprint of the North Tower. By then, about 70 percent of the construction contracts were awarded or ready to award. A total of 9,100 short tons (8,300 t) of steel were installed at the memorial site. By April 2010 the reflecting pools were fully framed in steel, and 85 percent of the concrete had been poured. By April 22, workers had begun installation of the granite coating for the reflecting pools. By June the North Pool’s granite coating was completed, and workers had begun granite installation in the South Pool. In July, the first soil shipments arrived at the site, and in August workers began planting trees on the memorial plaza. The swamp white oaks can reach 60 to 80 feet (18 to 24 m) at maturity, live from 300 to 350 years, and their autumn leaves are gold-colored. The “Survivor Tree” is a callery pear which survived the devastation and was kept for replanting. In September, workers reinstalled two tridents salvaged from the Twin Towers.
In November 2010, workers began testing the North Pool waterfall, and construction progressed through early 2011. In March installation of glass panels on the museum pavilion’s façade began, and in May workers began testing the South Pool waterfall. Most of the memorial was finished in time for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, with the museum planned for completion one year later. By September 2, 243 trees were planted at the site and eight more were planted in the days before the memorial opened. By then, both pools were completed and the waterfalls were tested daily.
On September 12, 2011, one day after the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the memorial opened to the public with a lengthy set of rules and regulations approved by the foundation’s board of directors. The period from September 11, 2011 to May 25, 2014 was known as the “interim operating period”, when the memorial was surrounded by construction of neighboring World Trade Center projects; the fence was taken down on May 25, 2014.
In January 2004, Reflecting Absence, by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker, was selected from 5,201 entries from 63 countries as the winner of the LMDC’s design competition. Two 1-acre (4,000 m2) pools with the largest man-made waterfalls in the United States comprise the footprints of the Twin Towers, symbolizing the loss of life and the physical void left by the attacks. The waterfalls are intended to mute the sounds of the city, making the site a contemplative sanctuary. Landscape architect Peter Walker planted many parts of the memorial with white oaks. Almost 400 sweet gum and swamp white oak trees fill the remaining 6 acres (24,000 m2) of the Memorial Plaza, enhancing the site’s reflective nature.
Pedestrian simulations tested the memorial’s design. The pedestrian-modeling program Legion was used to simulate visitor utilization of the space, and its design was tweaked to prevent bottlenecks. The fountain was engineered by Delta Fountains.
Arrangement of the victims’ names:
The names of 2,983 victims are inscribed on 76 bronze plates attached to the parapets of the walls of the memorial pools: 2,977 killed in the September 11 attacks and six killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The names are arranged according to an algorithm, creating “meaningful adjacencies” based on relationships—proximity at the time of the attacks, company or organization affiliations (for those working at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon) and in response to about 1,200 requests from family members. Software by Local Projects implemented the arrangement.
The names of the employees and visitors in the North Tower (WTC 1), the passengers and crew of American Airlines Flight 11 (which struck the North Tower), and the employees and a visitor of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing are around the perimeter of the North Pool. The names of the employees and visitors in the South Tower (WTC 2), the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 175 (which struck the South Tower), the employees, visitors, and bystanders in the immediate vicinity of the North and South Towers, the first responders who died during rescue operations, the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 (which crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania) and American Airlines Flight 77 (which struck the Pentagon), and the employees at the Pentagon are around the perimeter of the South Pool. Company names are not included, but company employees and visitors are listed together. Passengers on the four flights are listed under their flight numbers, and first responders with their units.
The process for arranging the names was finalized in a 2006 agreement, replacing an earlier plan to arrange the names randomly. According to Edith Lutnick (executive director of the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund), “Your loved ones’ names are surrounded by the names of those they sat with, those they worked with, those they lived with and, very possibly, those they died with.”
The six adult victims of the 1993 bombing are memorialized on Panel N-73 at the North Pool. The phrase “and her unborn child” follows the names of ten pregnant women who died on 9/11 and one who died in the 1993 attack.