When a building is first built, there is often a cornerstone placed to commemorate the date of the structure’s origin. How do you acknowledge the ending of a building’s existence?

This was a challenge faced by the recovery and clean-up team after the World Trade Center attacks. After months of excavating and debris removal, the project was coming to an end and the workers needed some way to mark the conclusion of an emotional task. They chose to pay tribute to first responders and others on a cement pillar. The column now resides in the 9-11 Museum as a permanent display.

Recognition can take many forms and certainly does not have to occur on a formal plaque or engraved wall. When you need to acknowledge the efforts of others, remember the adage from Marshall McLuhan: “The medium is the message,” and ensure that there is congruency between the what you want to say and how you say it. For 9-11, there could be nothing more fitting than spray paint on a cement pillar.

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