Thirteen years ago today, Liam Kanno was in downtown Manhattan on a perfect morning when the sky ripped apart. He was three blocks from the World Trade Center as the planes came scything in, and as the buildings and bodies collapsed around him, he stumbled into a stranger's house to survive. Shortly after, he quit his high paying advertising job, abandoned his luxury apartment several blocks from Ground Zero, and returned to school, to study humanities. He traveled the country, he visited remote monasteries, he painted.
As part of this recovery process, Liam submitted a design in New York's official memorial competition, but it was not accepted. But there was another call for designs, this one for a memorial site in the virtual world of Second Life. So Liam created a new design, and that one was built, and you can see it right here:
"Most of the time visitors don't say much," Liam told me when it still stood in Second Life (for sad to say, it no longer does). "They change their clothes into gray suits and dresses, and talk about who they lost. They visit the names on the walls, and give each other hugs. So from the virtual reality aspect, it's amazing to see that SL can be used to help others share and express."
Unlike Maya Lin's Vietnam War memorial, which this one is meant to evoke, the names of the fallen remain at a close remove, just out of reach. "Personally for me," Liam explained, "when I saw the people fall from the towers... the biggest thing for me is that I could do nothing ot help them... they were there, but no one could catch them. So in the design I have in-world there is about a three foot gap between the names and the walkway...
"I felt that by showing how the 2996 names occupied space," he told me, "that would be enough."
Originally published in 2007.
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