Feb. 8, 2004
Newsmaker: Filling the void in New York
By MELISSA RADLER
I thought about a memorial before the competition. At first, I was reluctant to think about building on the site, but I was very interested in what was going on [with the building competition], and I was following all the plans for the site. I think probably it's been emotional in different ways, and once I became a finalist, it became difficult in different ways. Meeting with family members who lost people - it's a tremendous responsibility to do a good job on this.
What was the most difficult part of the design process?
I think the design process of "what do I do now" was more difficult in the sense of getting everything done. I really got help from so many people in doing this: help in rendering the images on the computer, help with the printing. For example, with one of these models I developed, a model maker helped me for free. Another friend helped me print the board and another one helped me mount it. Another friend consulted with me throughout on the design. I've been very lucky to get help from so many people, and to still get help from so many people. I think [September 11] touched a lot of people the way it touched me.
What were your main inspirations for the memorial?
I didn't have a single inspiration, but I did have an image of these two voids in the river, so I worked with that image and sketched it and thought about how it could be done. I worked with a model maker for a couple of days on it; it's kind of odd, but the model maker is actually Syrian.
Are there any Jewish themes in your design?
I don't think there's anything overtly Jewish. There's an issue of trying to find a space that has some spirituality in it, and I think you could find religion in that, but I don't think it's Jewish in that sense, or religious for that matter.
You've mentioned that experiencing September 11 made you feel like a true New Yorker - what was it about the city in the aftermath of the attacks that brought this sense of belonging?
I was really impressed with the way people related to one another, the way they reacted to one another as a group. Even though they were strangers, there was a lot of strength and generosity and courage in the way people behaved. I went by Washington Square Park one night at around 2 or 3 in the morning and there were just a few people out lighting candles and standing around; people weren't taking, and it's not like they knew one another, but they were there together. I remember trying to give blood, and the line was around the block. Everybody came together, which really impressed me.
Did designing the memorial help you deal with your own grief?
I think grief is a strong word. I was very upset, but especially in the past few weeks, I've become aware of how my feelings are nowhere near those of people who lost family members. I'm very fortunate that I didn't lose anyone close to me.