Hope, Healing, and Rebuilding Spirit
By Sandra Priest
The concrete slurry wall foundation was poured four feet thick, seven stories deep, and secured with cables into bedrock and was to hold back the mighty Hudson River around the original World Trade Center in New York City. It was the only thing left intact after 9/11. In 2008–09, parts of that wall had to be cut out to make room for the new PATH subway tunnel for access to the new buildings. After 100+ cut-out blocks were sent out of state for recycling, the CEO of the company responsible for removing that wall decided to save some of these concrete sections. They then salvaged seventeen, 16,000 lb. pieces of that wall, thinking an artist might be able to sculpt them as 9/11 memorials.
I was found and chosen as that artist. Once I flew out to view the concrete pieces where they were stored, I was asked to create the first sculpture in 2011, as a gift. From December 2010 to August 2011, I finished “VICTORII REBUILD” as a ten-year 9/11 memorial anniversary piece. It is located in downtown Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, next to city hall. After this placement, I was given the entire project to finish, including all costs I would occur along the way. The second sculpture was commissioned in 2013, for the Fort Douglas National Military Museum as their Utah Fallen Warrior Memorial, dedicated to all Utah soldiers who have died from the Gulf War to the present day.
I now have the great honor to see the remaining blocks sculpted and set in place as 9/11 memorials around the United States. I take this responsibility to heart and accept the deep conviction it will take to complete this project. Since 2014, I have worked on different sculptural concepts and completed four additional pieces. The first one is titled “Barney 11,” dedicated to all rescue animals. I envision this to be placed in the middle of a fountain somewhere in a setting where people can walk their animals up to the edge of the water to drink from. The second is called “Joy 11.” This sculpture is dedicated to the eight children lost on 9/11 and those children left behind as their loved ones perished on that day. It has several colorful drawings engraved as modern-day petroglyphs with smaller drawings presented to me by my four grandchildren, ages three to seven, and from three other grandchildren of Kay and John Krapf, the two who stored the original seventeen pieces on their land until they were moved to my studio in Florida. The third sculpture, named “Peacetime 11,” has a large concave area sculpted into the concrete reminiscent of a Roman sundial. I see this memorial set to tell time and to represent “peace” as a message to go eternal. The fourth completed sculpture is “Echo 11.” This is the only piece we have that has an anchor/tieback embedded in it, like the wall you can view in the 9/11 museum on the lower level, where a part of the original wall is exposed for viewing. “Echo 11” is the most significant piece of the collection for that reason.