They define us. They say who we are in the simplest way. But in truth our names tell people very little about who we are. Still, our names are the starting point for almost everyone who gets to know us.
“Hi, I’m Stephanie.” That’s how it started with my wife and the mother of my children. We teach our children to introduce themselves by name, it’s an early lesson. “Hello, my name is Sam. What’s your name?” The name is our gateway to other people and their gateway to us.
This September names will be unveiled at the National September 11th Memorial in New York City. The names of those killed in 1993. The names of those killed at the Pentagon, in Pennsylvania and at the Twin Towers themselves will line the pools that mark the buildings footprints.
It isn’t an uncommon way to memorialize those we lose too soon. The Vietnam Memorial and The National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington DC as well as the Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial in Colorado all list the names of those who have sacrificed their lives for us.
But, the memorial at what was Ground Zero has expanded on that idea. Joe Daniels, President of the
National September 11 Memorial & Museum, “This memorial, that we are opening on the 10th anniversary, is designed in a way that’s different than any other memorial that’s ever been built in the world.”
Daniels continues, “What underpins the design is the notion that relationships between the victims are reflected on the memorial itself.”
He continues, “We took one extra step and went to every next of kin, of each of the victims, and asked them if there was a request, if they wanted their loved one’s name to be next to somebody else on the memorial," Daniels said.
The memorial calls this “meaningful adjacency.” By way of example Daniels tells the story of Abby Ross.
“It’s a heart breaking story”, says Daniels. “Abby Ross was best friends with Stacy Lee Sanders and Abby Ross’ father was Richard Ross.” On September 11th both Stacey Sanders and Richard Ross were killed. He was on Flight 11, which hit the North Tower where Stacy worked. Their names will sit beside each other.
"On that day," Daniels says, "Abby Ross, she lost her father and her best friend in the world. What this arrangement allows for is that when Abby Ross comes here on the 10th anniversary to remember the people that she loved she will see these two names, her father and her best friend together, forever."
The memorial received over 1200 adjacency requests and Daniels says they were able to grant them all.
“We wanted these names to create constellations”, says Michael Arad the memorial’s architect and designer. Looking at the panels the connections are hidden to most, something Arad thinks will bring power to the memorial, “How do we make these hidden connections accessible to visitors? The way that you can connect the people and have an impact on people, not just tomorrow and next year, but fifty years from now, is to find these really human stories, of these terrible tragedies, and find a way to connect directly to people.”
The answer will lie beneath the memorial. Next year the museum at the WTC will open and the names will become a starting point for visitors. There is an effort underway to interview and record oral histories with a loved one of every victim. As planned, artifacts and images that tell us who these people were and how they lived, as well as how they died, will fill the exhibits and archives of the museum.
Within the panels names are grouped with the companies where they worked. The passengers on flights are together. And the first responders are also listed by their agency and unit.
“For example, Fire Department of New York is listed on the memorial”, says Daniels. He continues, “The units and the ladder companies that served on that day are on this memorial.”
“What’s heartbreaking and something that will always be remembered is that these first responders went up the stairs to save people, regardless of political stripe, race or religion. What they came to do is save people’s lives, and they perished heroically making that effort, and I think this memorial reflects the special role and the special place in our hearts that those first responders occupy”, said Daniels.
“When you look at the memorial, every name is almost like an island onto itself”, says Arad.
“Better, it’s an archipelago of islands. You have one island after another after another and what we managed to do is to create this continuous river of names which flows around each pool”, Arad added.
Daniels sees this arrangement as a reminder to us all of a very simple thing, “Those people, the victims that died that day, were no different than us. They simply got up in the morning, and they went to work. And, they had full lives behind them.”
Go to http://names.911memorial.org/. That site will allow you to explore how the names are arranged and learn more about the lives and people beyond the names.
Tonight on Fox Report at 7pm EDT you can see a glimpse of the future National 911 Memorial and how the names of those who died in the attacks are arranged. You won’t want to miss this preview of what will become a lasting monument to the heroes of that day and thousands of innocent people who were killed.
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.