Sharing the Memorials Registry: "Eleven Tears" in Lower Manhattan

The “Eleven Tears” memorial is seen inside the ground lobby of Three World Financial Center. It includes a pool with the names of the victims and descriptions about them etched in black granite. A 600-pound quartz crystal that emits light is suspended over the pool. The name of Lisa Kearney-Griffin is in the foreground. She is described as a “warm, happy, beautiful, and always fabulous” wife and mother.
"Eleven Tears" memorial. Photo courtesy of the 9/11 Memorials Registry.

Sharing the Memorials Registry is a series devoted to highlighting the diverse ways in which individuals and communities commemorate the 9/11 victims through the creation of public memorials. Learn more at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum’s Memorials Registry, which tracks 9/11 Memorials throughout the world.

Eleven Tears, 2003

Eleven Tears was commissioned by the American Express Corporation in memory of 11 employees who died on 9/11. Located in the ground floor lobby of Three World Financial Center, the memorial is within view of the Trade Center site.

Six artists were invited to submit ideas, including five sculptors and one landscape artist, Ken Smith, with the aim of teaming up for the base area. But Smith had a full vision, and it blew the selection committee away.

 As Smith has described it:

"Water, light, crystal, stone and metal form a powerful presence in the space that is abstract from a distance and intensely personal up close. Water drops fall from a 11-sided ceiling canopy into a 11-sided black granite reflecting pool of water.

"Suspended over the water surface is a 600-pound natural quartz crystal cut with 11 facets that capture and reflect light in a beautiful way. The names of the 11 victims are inscribed in the pool coping and brief remembrances are set into the pool bottom. The falling tear drops create small ripples in the still water of the pool providing a subtle animation and a quiet sound."

The project was completed in only seven months and involved more than 100 people. The idea was inspired by French gardens near canals, where the water reflects the sky. Smith felt the massive geometry of the lobby was “controlling and cold” and needed a connection from ceiling to floor and gentle sound and light to help foster a sense of “healing.”

The key partner was Lawrence Stoller of CrystalWorks in Bend, Ore., a world-famous master of cutting and shaping large crystals. Stoller sourced the crystal from Brazil and then completed its shaping in record time – such work typically takes several years. Cutting the crystal into a geometric form with 11 sides was a special challenge.

A mind-boggling part of the creation story is its ending. When the crystal was hung for the first time just before the memorial dedication, it would not hang straight. Stoller and his team jury-rigged a workshop in the basement of the building and recut and madly repolished the stone to make it work, just in time. The story is dramatically told in this video.

By Lester J. Levine, author of “9/11 Memorial Visions: Innovative Concepts from the 2003 World Trade Center Memorial Site Memorial Competition,” (McFarland, 2016). Visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museums Registries to learn more or to submit a memorial from your community.

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