The Tear of Grief – An Ongoing Tribute to the People who Died on 9/11 and the Survivors who Mourn and Grieve: An Interview with Professor Donald Elder

Sep 23, 2020 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

  1. Dr. Elder, over in Bayonne, New Jersey, stands a monument to all those who perished on 9/11. Where did this come from, who devised it and when did it arrive?

While most of the people who lost their lives on 9/11 had American citizenship, a great many other countries also suffered losses on that day. Twenty six of the victims, for example, held Russian citizenship. In addition, a number of the victims had Russian ancestry. Because of that, a group of individuals inside the Russian government felt that they should sponsor a memorial to all the victims of the terrorist attacks. Accordingly, the Russian government allocated funds for that purpose. It took a few years to finalize the arrangements, but finally on September 16, 2005, a ground-breaking ceremony attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin took place in Bayonne, New Jersey. Construction on this monument proceeded rapidly, and then an official opening ceremony (attended by former U.S. President Bill Clinton) occurred on September 11, 2006.

  1. Like the Statue of Liberty, it came from a foreign country, but what do we know if anything, about the artist, and what motivated him?

As a first step in the creation of the memorial, the Russian government had to select an artist to design the structure. To that end, the Russian government chose Zurab Tsereteli. Born in 1934 in the Soviet State of Georgia, Tsereteli, after obtaining his bachelor’s degree in 1956, had emerged as one of the leading structural artists in the USSR. He gained international fame from serving as the chief designer for the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. In 1997 he had become the President of the Russian Academy of Arts. His selection as the designer for the 9/11 memorial that Russia would give the United States therefore seemed a very logical choice.

Eventually, Tsereteli came up with a plan for a 100-foot high memorial that would have an area in the middle which would resemble a wall hit by one of the hijacked planes on 9/11. In the middle of the hole hangs a piece coated with nickel, designed to resemble a teardrop. Tsereteli plated the supports of the structure with bronze plating. As a final touch, Tsereteli oriented the structure so that if observers stood in a certain place and looked through the hole in the structure, they could see the spot where the World Trade Center had stood. Although Tsereteli never gave a precise figure for what Russia spent on the memorial, most experts assume that labor and material would have cost at least $12,000,000.

  1. We can only guess at the number of tears that were shed on 9/11 and after 9/11 and the number of tears shed each and every year as we approach 9/11. Are there any events held at this monument, or do people simply come to pay respects, and to grieve and pray?

Officially known as “To the Struggle Against World Terrorism,” but more commonly referred to as “The Tear of Grief,” or “The Teardrop Memorial,” the structure in New Jersey has had thousands of individuals visit it since its official dedication. But unlike most of the memorials commemorating 9/11, The Teardrop Memorial has faced a fair share of criticism.

First, many find it objectionable that the tyrant Vladimir Putin gave the memorial to the United States. Although not yet officially corroborated, the recent allegation that Russia paid bounties for American soldiers killed by members of the Taliban in Afghanistan has the potential to further lower the estimation of the memorial in the eyes of the American public.

Second, many observers find the design quite simplistic, while others think that the memorial conveys the message of grief in too obvious a manner.

And lastly, the memorial in New Jersey lacks the easy access that the one located at the World Trade Center offers, requiring visitors to drive on a number of side streets in Bayonne. For those reasons, The Teardrop Memorial does not attract the number of visitors that other sites dedicated to the remembrance of 9/11 do.

  1. Some monuments have a plaque. Does this one have any type of plaque?

As part of the design of the memorial, Tsereteli chose to have the base consist of eleven sides. He then had granite plaques attached to these surfaces, with each plaque containing the names of the people who died in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the attacks on 9/11.

Unfortunately, the individuals responsible for creating the plaques did not realize that the list of the victims had undergone revisions in the first few years after the tragedy. Thus, the plaques at The Teardrop Memorial offer an inaccurate list of the victims.

  1. If memory serves me, wasn’t there a controversy regarding the location of The Teardrop Memorial?

Bayonne, New Jersey was not originally intended to receive The Teardrop Memorial. That honor should have gone to Jersey City, New Jersey. Indeed, government and civic leaders in Jersey City initially welcomed the prospect of having the memorial located within the limits of their city. All this changed when those individuals saw the design of the structure. To a number of them, it seemed that the hole resembled a specific part of a female’s body, and to some it seemed that Vladimir Putin may have deliberately intended this as a commentary on what he actually thought of the United States. Jersey City thus indignantly rejected the memorial, which prompted a frantic search for a new site.

Finally, Bayonne, New Jersey offered a piece of land no longer in use on the eastern side of the city. During the Second World War, the federal government had constructed the Military Ocean Terminal in Bayonne, and it continued to operate that facility until decommissioning it in 1999. In the process of trying to put that property to other uses, the leaders of Bayonne found it therefore expedient to offer the Military Ocean Terminal as a site for the 9/11 memorial.

  1. In closing, there have probably been many, many memorials to the many EMT’s, and firemen, and policemen, and policewomen and firewomen and civilians that perished on 9/11. I hope that we never forget all those who gave so much of themselves to others on that day.

In today’s day and age, over 1000 memorials commemorating 9/11 exist around the world. Understandably, the United States houses most of these monuments, and the greatest number of those memorials exist in the northeastern part of the nation. But in locations as varied as Padua, Italy and London, England, visitors can find commemorations of the tragedy that befell the United States.

This world-wide outpouring of grief can best be summed up in the title of a book by Barbara Kerley: One World, One Day. Whether through memorials to the victims of the attacks on 9/11 or the unanimous vote of America’s NATO allies to support us in our moment of need, people from all over the globe let Americans know that they were not alone in their grief and anger. It seems eminently logical to therefore assume that the United States and the world will never forget that tragic day.

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