I’m happy that the there is now one figurative sculpture at the World Trade Center site: it honors the Americans who fought in the wake of 9/11. While construction on the WTC site continues, the sculpture is behind a cyclone fence. Here are the best photos I could get.
The inscription on the granite base runs in a dozen 6-foot-long lines, all caps, making it difficult to read. The transcription below is in upper and lower case but otherwise unchanged. Thanks to author and former Marine Quent Cordair for helping me with capitalization of the military units.
America’s Response Monument“De oppresso liber”(“Liberate the Oppressed,” motto, U.S. Army Special Forces)Within hours of the cowardly attacks of September 11, 2001, America’s Special Operations Forces were called to action, formulating an unconventional warfare response to the acts of terrorism inflicted on our country. Not since the patriots’ actions of Concord and Lexington in our Revolution has first priority been given to such an unconventional approach. The force of choice, eventually known as Task Force Dagger, was a multiservice, inter-agency task force built primarily around the Green Berets of the 5th Special Forces Group. Key to the task force’s success was a partnership formed between Army Special Operations and civilian professionals brought together to accomplish their assigned mission: destroy the Taliban regime and deny Afghanistan as a sanctuary for Al Qaeda. On the night of October 19, 2001, braving severe weather conditions and a ruthless enemy, the “A” Teams of the 5th Special Forces Group began infiltrating throughout Afghanistan. Helicopter infiltration and fire support was provided by the world’s finest helicopter aviators, the “Nightstalkers” of the Army’s 160th Special Operation Aviation Regiment. Operating together with their CIA counterparts and Air Force combat controllers, the teams made contact with the various ethnic indigenous forces still holding out against the Taliban regime. Collectively, these integrated “A” Teams fought heroically under incredibly dangerous and austere conditions alongside their Afghan counterparts and accomplished what so many said could not be done … overthrowing the Taliban regime in that most dangerous of countries, Afghanistan. America’s Response Monument, “De Oppresso Liber,” features a Special Forces soldier representative of the many operational detachments “A” who operated across Afghanistan. Some of these A-Teams uniquely fought mounted on horseback alongside their Uzbek counterparts, successfully blending both ancient and 21st century state of the art methods of warfare against our enemies. These operators, informally referred to as “Horse Soldiers” or “Afghan Mounted Rifles,” were the first Americans to fight on horseback in over 50 years. This image was selected because it typifies the courage, adaptability and resourcefulness that are the hallmarks of America’s Special Operations community. The steel girder protruding from beneath the rocks is an actual piece of the World Trade Center Towers and as such is considered a national treasure. It symbolizes the connection between the events of 9/11 and the actions of the Special Operations heroes this monument honors. You are welcome and encouraged to touch it. This monument is intended to honor the incredible courage, initiative, and resourcefulness of all members of all branches of the armed forces who went and fought the battle of 9/11. It recognizes all of the men of Special Forces, all the great men and women of our joint Special Operations Forces, the intrepid officers of the Central Intelligence Agency and the entire inter-agency teams whose dedication, courage and commitment to the people of the United States of America were called upon in those terrible early days following the attacks of 9/11 to bring justice to those who would attack us. This monument serves as a most grateful recognition by the American people of their extraordinary service and sacrifice.
- De oppresso liber, the motto of the U.S. Army Special Forces, doesn’t mean “Free the oppressed.” Liber, “free,” is an adjective, not a verb. Following de oppresso, “out of being oppressed,” it suggests a time sequence. So the phrase means “From being oppressed, free,” or “Free after being oppressed.”
- On the background of the sculpture and its dedication in 2011, see this Washington Times article, which includes a better pic than mine.
- The New York Post covered the sculpture in 2012.
- The Wikipedia article includes the photo that inspired the sculpture.
- I still wish we had a better memorial to the Americans who died at Ground Zero than two holes in the ground. For my thoughts on this, see From Portraits to Puddles: New York City Memorials from the Civil War to the World Trade Center (Reflecting Absence).