Early in the morning in San Francisco, Peter Walker was alerted to the events by his wife, who was in Indiana. Like millions of Americans, he watched as the television networks replayed the scenes. "That's probably one of the most shocking things anyone has ever seen," he remembers thinking.
This is the story of how these three men turned their initial shock into a memorial, transforming the gaping wound in the ground, a reminder of 2,977 lives lost, into a place of serenity, reflection, and grace.
Around the time of 9/11, Mr. Arad, an architect, worked for the New York City Housing Authority. As he thought back on the tragedy later that year, he pulled out his sketch pad. He drew the Hudson River, the World Financial Center, and the marina, all adjacent to the collapsed twin towers. Where the towers would be were two voids, holes in the ground.
"I was intrigued by that idea," he says. "I ... spent a lot of time trying to understand the aesthetic, how the image could be made into reality."
He built a model and took it up on his roof, where he photographed it.
Arad ended up making an anonymous submission to the competition for memorial designs. It was one of 5,201 entries. He envisioned an urban plaza at ground level – unlike the master plan for the site, drawn up by architect Daniel Libeskind, which had the memorial 30 feet below grade.
Making it all at ground level and completely flat was essential to his plan. "It creates this unified precinct; it marks it as a space," he says.
In the middle of the plain would be the two voids, with water falling into them.