Community-based projects which are linked initially to trauma and/or loss are embedded with social meaning shaped by local identity, values, and traditions but affected by regional networks and more global events. Projects that have the greatest potential to re-knit social cohesion are those which help re-establish a locus of control and neighborhood efficacy. Projects that are imbued with an ecological approach in process, design and maintenance have even higher potentials of fostering open systems essential for building trust and cooperation. In some cases, the memorials themselves were either left unfinished, unmarked or still evolving.
We created a national registry which serves as an on-line inventory of sites and social meanings. To date, over 500 Living Memorials have been located in every state in the nation. Researchers Erika Svendsen and Lindsay Campbell went into the field to interview 100 community groups using social ecology methods of patterned discourse, observations, photo-narrative, and mapping.
One of the most basic findings was that after September 11, communities needed space. Space to create. Space to teach. Space to restore. These social motivations formed the basis of patterned human responses observed throughout the nation. A site typology emerged adhering to specific forms and functions, that often reflected a variance in attitudes, beliefs and social networks. The functions of these memorial projects are affected by the site location, along with the memorial message and ongoing public use.