Culture At Large

The 9/11 Memorial and healing through architecture

Chris Meehan

Dan Euser, a Christian landscape architect, says he experienced God’s hand and grace at work while consulting on the design of two fountains of cleansing, cascading water that are a key part of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Located on the 16-acre site in New York City where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood, the memorial takes up about half of the area. Euser’s design includes the large fountains from which water pours into two deep, square pools where the towers once stood, before the water disappears into an opening.

"I wanted to make the water visible but not overpowering," said Euser, who belongs to Community Church of Richmond Hill in Toronto and operates Waterarchitecture Inc. "I see the water as a symbol of washing away and of healing and yet also reflecting a vale of tears – the grief that the families of those who died in the towers still feel."

The waterfalls and reflecting pools also represent a sense of renewal and closure. The water flows down, disappears and then reappears to begin flowing again.

"I feel humbled. It has been an honor to be part of that renewal," said Euser. "The memorial has become sacred ground. It is a place of healing for the families and for others from all over the world that remember that day and will visit the site."

The memorial and museum were dedicated in a ceremony held on Sept. 11. The museum is still being built on the site of what is called The Memorial Plaza. More than 400 trees are planned for the plaza, surrounding the memorial's massive reflecting pools.

In preparation for building the pools on the site of Ground Zero, Euser constructed a mock-up in the yard behind his home and workshop north of Toronto. The temporary structure was made of plywood sheets, timber framing, steel-plate bracing and pumps.

He used the mock-up to search for the ideal angle, distribution, speed and volume of water flow. When he viewed the memorial in the days before the ceremony, he was pleased by what he saw.

"The water is animated by the weather. Crystal streams fall down in the sunlight. Gusts of wind lift the water out," he said. "It is just alive."

His Christian faith and Biblical themes of cleansing, healing and renewal have helped in inspiring the landscape architecture work that he has done, especially on the 9/11 project.

"I see God's hand in all of this," he said. "It's been providential."

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