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Chapel Hill man creates book of artists' stories to remember 9/11 attacks

Posted September 9, 2016

— One man from Chapel Hill decided to write a book memorializing 9/11 victims through stories told by artists from around the world.

When the towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, Lester Levine and his wife watched from their Chapel Hill home. In the following days, the former New Yorkers learned the attacks took a personal toll.

"We both knew people who had been killed," said Levine.

Two years later, officials announced a global competition to design a memorial for the World Trade Center site. Inspired by their connection with the event, the Levines entered their own submission: a teardrop-shaped sculpture filled with thousands of different lights.

"Each one of these lights represents an individual person," said Levine. "You can look up their names—it's all computer controlled."

Contest judges didn't select the Levines' sculpture, and the couple didn't think much more about it until years later, in 2011, when they learned that all 5,200 entries from the competition, including their own, were still posted on the web.

"The entries themselves told a story when you read through them," said Levine.

When he realized that no one had compiled those stories in any way, Levine selected hundreds of innovative designs from the entries and interviewed the creators.

Then, he compiled the stories in a new book and titled it "9/11 Memorial Visions." Levine was most interested in designers whose ideas went beyond the typical memorial. He was looking for lights, sounds and interaction—memorials that honored the dead and challenged the living.

Levine, who works as a management consultant, had never written a book before, but he was inspired.

"I think the book tells us about creativity and how creativity can try to draw positive things out of something very negative," he said.

"9/11 Memorial Visions: Innovative Concepts from the 2003 World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition" is available online.

"I hope telling their stories contributes another dimension to the world's 9/11 story," said Levine. "These people wanted their memorials to be about life and not death."


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