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On “Meaningful Adjacencies”

9/11 Memorial Reflecting Pool

Thanks to my sister for pointing me to this article a couple of days ago.It is written by Paula Grant Berry, who lost her husband on 9/11 and is a member of the jury that helped guide the building of the memorial. Here is her information about how they decided where to place the names on the memorial.

It was clear that arranging the names alphabetically or by company would be too cold and dispassionate, as if this were a listing you’d see in a building directory posted near the elevator. The alternative, displaying the names randomly, seemed at first to make more sense. After all, it was random, wasn’t it, who lived and who died on that terrible morning 10 years ago?

But ultimately, we realized, a random arrangement felt wrong, too. The deaths of our loved ones may have been random, but their lives were not.

In the concept of meaningful adjacencies, we had at last found a powerful response to the senselessness of our loved ones’ deaths. Placing names in thoughtful proximity to one another would give us the opportunity to bear witness to the shared care and concern, the labor and joy that bound these people together while they were alive — whether as siblings or colleagues, as friends or family, or even as former strangers who turned to one another for comfort at that moment of cataclysm.

In a profound way, we realized that meaningful adjacencies would convey both the disturbing appearance of randomness with a comforting underlying truth: We are all connected. The idea captured us all.

Michael Arad, the designer of the memorial, came up with this simple yet powerful concept. I will always remember how he explained it to the jury: A memorial is a monument unless it lists the names of those lost. It was crucial that the names on this memorial be displayed, and displayed with purpose.

Check out the whole article here for more details.

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