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Countdown to the 9/11 Memorial: Teddy bears?

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One of the more surprising details to emerge from my tour last month of the National September 11 memorial, which will be dedicated on Sunday, has to do with ... stuffed animals. During my visit to the Manhattan site, there was water in one of the huge sunken fountains that make up the heart of the memorial; the other void was mostly dry, leaving visible a rather large filter ringing a smaller square in the fountain’s base.

When I asked Matthew Donham, who works with Peter Walker, the landscape architect on the memorial, what the filter was for, he told me that once the fountains open there’s an expectation that people will throw all sorts of things down into them.

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I assumed he was talking about coins, but he said he meant more personal and often bigger items: photographs, notes and signs, flowers, T-shirts, hats -- even teddy bears. So he and the rest of the design team on the memorial, which was led by architect Michael Arad, placed a good-sized filter at the center of each fountain so those pieces can be collected and perhaps even preserved.

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-- Christopher Hawthorne


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