NEW YORK.- The Trinity Root 9/11 Memorial has been quietly embraced by the approximately 1.5 million visitors from both the city and around the world to flock to the site. The sculpture came about as an inspiration by Quakertown, Pennsylvania sculptor Steve Tobin after seeing the uplifting story of the 70-year-old sycamore tree that was felled by the intense impact of the collapsing towers across the street from the World Trade Center. The tree absorbed the shockwaves, which a physicist has compared to those of a small nuclear bomb, and was laying in such a way as to shield historic St. Paul's Chapel at Trinity Church and its ancient tombstones from falling debris. The tree, which even took a hit from an I-beam, seemed the only positive story that came out of the tragic events that day.
As the five-year anniversary milestone of the infamous attacks on the World Trade Center approaches and proposals for a Ground Zero memorial continue to be mired in political controversy, only one art memorial has been permanently installed in the vicinity of Ground Zero. Titled the "Trinity Root," the 13' high x 20' diameter bronze sculpture of the "tree that saved the church," graces the corner of Wall Street and Broadway as a symbol of hope and renewal in an area still plagued by controversy over what kind of memorial would best serve the families of the victims of 9/11, the Lower Manhattan community, and the world at large.
Relatively undamaged, St. Paul's Chapel became home to the rescue workers, i.e. hundreds of firefighters, volunteers and the clean-up crew on the day of the attacks and remained a haven for them for nearly a year afterward as they struggled to remove debris, identify victims and return the devastated area to some degree of normalcy.
Tobin, who is known for his monumental bronze and steel sculptures, visited the pastor of St. Paul's Chapel just days after the attacks to inquire if the stump and root system of the tree might be made into one of his signature bronze Roots sculptures as a memorial. It would be three years before the sculpture became a reality.
"The Trinity Root is the most significant work that I shall ever make," said Tobin. "I hope that it gives solace to the millions of people who visit Ground Zero from all over the world, and from the community of Lower Manhattan, particularly on the five year anniversary of the day that changed the world forever."
Ironically, an exhibition of Tobin's bronze Roots and other works from his Earth Bronzes series were deinstalled from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where they had been on exhibition for one year, on September 10, 2001.