Thomas Stewart May 4, 2011
Cape Coral artist San Priest works on a sculpture Tuesday at her studio in south Fort Myers. The artwork is being made using a chunk of concrete from the World Trade Center in New York City. She is donating
the piece to ground zero for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. / ANDREW WEST/news-press.com
After being part of the foundation for the World Trade Center for 30-plus years, a chunk of concrete that has made its way to Lee County has been given a higher purpose.
The powdery block of American history sits under the shade of a tent south of Daniels Parkway as local sculptor San Priest prepares to send it to ground zero for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The final location is being determined.
Priest, of Cape Coral, has been molding the piece in her studio since March, when the concrete was delivered.
After learning of the death of Osama bin Laden, Priest and the group who commissioned the piece decided it was time to go public with their plan.
"It was time to talk about it," she said.
Many who see the block, which has been cut into the shape of a "V," believe it represents victory, she said, and the death of bin Laden is a victory for many people.
Priest said the shape has numerous meanings but the ultimate message is one of moving forward.
"What I'm hoping people will feel when they see (it) is that they'll feel a little closer to the end of the healing process," she said.
"Having the foundation is very significant; it's the foundation of a new beginning," she said.
She plans on producing 11 pieces and placing them across the country to provide tangible tributes that people who may not be able to travel to ground zero can visit.
In addition to New York, she envisions them in Washington, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Southwest Florida and Indiana, where she is from.
"My idea is to place them so everybody can have that experience," she said.
Etched into the concrete will be binary code identifying New York City, Virginia, and Shanksville, Pa., the sites of the three attacks.
The project, known as Project 11UP, so far has been an emotional one for her.
Wiping away tears, she said it has connected her to the tragedy in a new way.
"When I work on it, I feel the people that have passed away," she said.
It seems as though the victims and survivors, she said, are pushing her to finish.
"I could be at home just making a cup of coffee, but I feel like I'm being supported," she said.
While working on it, she said she has run across people with connections to the tragedies many times.
"So many people in this area either worked in the towers or lived nearby," she said.
"I don't know if I find them or if they find me but it happens all the time."
In addition to the historical significance of the material, Priest said the project is unusual for other reasons.
"Nobody ever sculpted existing concrete into artwork," she said.
"Nobody ever gets 50-year-old, 4-foot concrete either," she said.
"This is just very unique."
Priest's mother, Millie Orosz Van Horn, said she is proud of her daughter.
"Hers is a God-given gift, I think," she said."We've all said this project has legs and it's going to walk really far," she said.
Click for a printable version of the News Press interview with San