Channeling Emotions into Metal

Writer: 
November 30, 2002

As the events of September 11 were commemorated this fall, sculptor Patrick Morelli A.M. '68 was working on a commission for the State of New Jersey--a memorial to the more than 700 state residents killed in the terrorist attacks.

Memento Morelli: incorporating humanity into remembrance

Memento Morelli: incorporating humanity into remembrance. © Patrick Morelli

Morelli, whose work was unveiled in October at a ceremony for the victims' families, says his purpose in creating the memorial was twofold. "My first thought in creating memorials is that they do memorialize the event," he says. "But a memorial has an equally important function, which is to move people from the cycle of grief into the cycle of rebuilding. The energy and emotions are channeled into something positive."

The memorial, located at Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange, overlooking Manhattan and where the towers once stood, combines a formal list of the victims' names with the personal, a statue of a young girl representing the families left behind. "People need humanity," Morelli says. "So often, memorials are thought of in terms that are grander in scale. That was one of my concerns: How do I memorialize the names but also incorporate the humanity?"

As he worked on the memorial, Morelli says, families would come to visit and watch him sculpt. He kept the names of the victims up on his studio wall, allowing him to look "at each individual name. The humanity of it just hits you--it's not a statistic any more. It's people. Names, ages, hometowns. I meet the families and the children, and they tell me about the father, and one story is more gut-wrenching than the other."

At the unveiling, Morelli spoke to the families. He planned to talk about "the symbolism of the pieces, and to emphasize that we're really here to dedicate ourselves to remembering those who lost their lives, to maintaining a world of peace, but, I really feel compelled to add, to find justice for those who were responsible for the tragedy."

Ultimately, Morelli says he hopes the memorial will help bring some measure of healing to its viewers. "It is by design that we remember those we have lost, but it is also a reminder that we have to rise above that--to regenerate."