Menu

Rise of Freedom

Rise of Freedom: Architect of 9/11 Memorial Feels 'Weight of History'

  • 2. Michael Arad and wife Melanie

  • 9/11 Memorial, photo courtesy Silverstein Properties

Next year, on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, lower Manhattan will become home to the national memorial to that day, and among the many who are helping to bring the memorial to reality is architect Michael Arad.

"The weight of history is so heavy here that you just want to get out of the way and let it speak for itself," Arad said.

In April 2003, a contest seeking an architect for the memorial was launched by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The 5,201 entries came from six continents, 63 nations and 49 states.

Arad’s design, “Reflecting Absence,”was ultimately chosen, but even before the competition, his mind was drawn to what the memorial should look like.

“For some reason I was really drawn to the Hudson River, and I imagined these two enormous voids in the Hudson River,” he said. He went to work on his design. “I ended up building this little model back in 2003 and set it aside, and a few months later there was a competition for the design of the memorial right here on the site."

Perhaps Arad’s early vision and work were in response to being a witness to much of that days’ horror.

"I was at home in the East Village that morning, and I heard on the radio that a plane had hit the tower. And I walked up to the roof of my apartment building and I actually saw the South Tower get hit and immediately you knew that it was no accident."

He left home and went to his wife’s office near the towers. He found her and after watching the South Tower collapse he and his wife made it home, but the view was gone. Arad remembers it vividly: "I got home probably not more than 2 or 3 hours after I had left, I left home and the towers were standing, and I came home and they were gone."

Arad’s design put two massive waterfalls in the footprints of the twin towers. Just last week, the water came on for the first time. Sixteen pumps power the 30-foot waterfalls circulating 52,000 gallons per minute.

“To hear the water falling behind me, it's kind of it's an incredible soundtrack," he said. "I've been waiting to hear this for years.”

In January, workers will begin installing panels with the names of those killed. The panels will frame the fountains giving everyone a place to come and remember those who were lost.

For Arad, it's more than a job well done.

“One of the guys that works here, he lost his mom on 9/11, and he's working on this fountain and he was so visibly moved by it," Arad said. "And for me as an architect to sort of be able to give that space for people to experience these emotions, it's so it's gratifying. It's nothing I could have ever dreamed of doing."

To see the amazing memorial and the latest segment in the Rise of Freedom series tune into Fox Report with Shepard Smith, tonight, at 7pm EDT. Go to www.foxnews.com/freedom. There you can see the planned memorial and museum and raw video of the memorial falls. 

To learn more about the museum and memorial you can visit their site at www.national911memorial.org.

Martin Hinton is a Senior Producer in Program Development at Fox News. The documentary that inspired this piece airs this weekend on Fox News.  “Your Secret's Out!” airs Saturday night at 10 pm ET and Sunday at 9 pm ET.  The piece above is an opinion, just a thought Martin was willing to share.  He is grateful for that freedom.