By WILLIAM NEUMAN
February 9, 2004 -- EXCLUSIVE
Renowned architect Maya Lin wrote an impassioned plea, urging her fellow Ground Zero jury members to vote for the "Reflecting Absence" memorial when she feared the design had little chance of winning the competition, The Post has learned.
"Dear fellow jurors: I did not realize fully until after our last meeting how strong and great one of the schemes is," Lin wrote in a letter handed out at the panel's decisive and final session at Gracie Mansion on Jan. 5.
In the letter, she referred to the jury's previous meeting on Dec. 7, in which the 13-member panel took a series of straw votes that singled out two other designs for further consideration - "Garden of Lights" and "Passages of Light: Memorial Cloud."
The nonbinding votes all but eliminated Michael Arad's "Reflecting Absence" design from consideration, according to sources familiar with the jury's actions.
But Lin insisted that "Absence" remain alive, and after what one source called "an impassioned appeal" at the meeting and a flurry of e-mails and phone calls in the following days, the design was allowed to stay in the running.
"It wasn't until after I left our last meeting - with the assumption that 'Reflecting Absence' had been eliminated - that I came to the realization it is the only one of the three [designs in contention] that can be a great memorial," says the letter, which was obtained by The Post.
"As I walked away in the snow that day, I began to imagine how one would experience the place," wrote Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, who is known for her minimalist aesthetic.
"You would hear it first - the sound of water - and I couldn't help but think of tears. Then . . . you would be drawn by the sounds to the two identical voids.
"The power of those footprints in the memorial - it will connect all of us to the place - to the history of the Twin Towers, to their destruction and to all the lives lost that day," she wrote. "This design works because it has the strength to let the footprints be the memorial - not to try to upstage such a real and historic place with extra aesthetic form added to the site for arbitrary or additional meaning."
Lin, who was known for bursting into tears during tense jury discussions, handed out the letter at the January meeting.
Several jurors stressed that "Absence" was a consensus choice that won with broad support - and no single person pushed it through.