America's Response Monument
America’s Response Monument or “De Oppresso Liber (1),” was created in honor of the armed forces members of all branches who went and fought in response to 9/11. De oppresso liber is the motto of the U.S. Army Special Forces which translates to “Free after being oppressed.” Another name people use to refer to this monument is the “Horse Soldier Statue.” This monument that captures special forces soldier on horseback observing Special Forces operations in Afghanistan was done during the opening days of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The 9/11 attacks occurred on September 11, 2001, a Tuesday morning. The attacks happened in in Lower Manhattan. This tragic day in American history consisted of a series of four terrorist attacks. The attacks were coordinated and committed by al-Qaeda (2), an Islamic terrorist group with nineteen men hijacking four jet airliners that were headed to California. It was reported that 2,996 people were killed and over 6,000 others were injured due to the attacks. The attacks also resulted in around $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. The planes hijacked in the attacks crashed into the North and South towers, essentially the World Trade Center complex, as well as the Pentagon (3). It took about an hour and 42 minutes for both 110-story towers collapsed. 9/11 accounts for the deadliest terrorist attack in human history and is also noted as the single deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officer in the history of the United States. There was around 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers killed. America’s Response Monument was made in memory all of those lost.
After 9/11 occured the War on Terror, or the Global War on Terrorism, was launched by the United States government. This was noted to be an international military campaign. U.S. president George W. Bush first introduced the term "war on terrorism" on September 16, 2001 when addressing Congress. The Special Forces operators those who volunteered and went to defeat the Taliban during the War on Terror are to be honored by this monument. They defeated the Taliban in under 30 days when it was projected to take months.
Douwe Blumberg (4) is the artist of this project. He was chosen to be the artist by the Special Forces Association, the Foundation for U.S. Historical Monuments, and Special Operations Association. The budget of this monument was $500,000 and was requested to be completed in six months after the idea was presented. The main goal of the monument was to honor the America’s Special Operations community who initially responded to 9/11. However, behind the scenes, Blumberg felt passionately that despite our nation’s political beliefs that we can and should honor the men, women and families who sacrifice more than we can wrap our heads around. Blumberg strived to create a “world-class artwork” and a project that’s style would reach and be accessible to a large demographic. In addition, he desired to combine artistry with the “perfect” amount of historicity.
Each part of this monument is symbolic. The steel girder that comes up from under the rocks is a real piece of the World Trade Center Towers, symbolizes the connection of the events on 9/11 and the actions of the Special Operations heroes that this monument intends to honor.
The soldier placed upon the horse is a Special Forces soldier. This soldier represents one out of the several operational detachments “A” who performed in Afghanistan. Some of these soldiers fought while seated on the back of a horse. They rode by the side of their Uzbek counterparts. This motion that Blumberg was able to recreate, blended the ancient and the 21st century state of the art warfare methods used against our nation’s enemies. These operators were the first Americans to fight while on horseback in over 50 years. They are also referred to or known as “Horse Soldiers” or “Afghan Mounted Rifles.” Blumberg saw a photo of ODA 595 riding across a field on Afghan horses that had been presented by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (5) during a Press Conference on November 15th in 2001. The image captivated him and he knew he must incorporate that image in his sculpture.
The first version of the statue was sold in 2003. This version was made a small-scale and only stood at 18 inches. The main version that we see displayed in public today stands at 16 feet, making it a “life-and-a-half scale.” This version was delegated in April 2011 by a group of Wall Street bankers who lost friends during the attacks on 9/11. The group of bankers remain anonymous.
The large scale monument was first dedicated on Veteran's Day, November 11, 2011. Colonel John Mulholland, Special Operations Commander of Afghanistan, dedicated the statue in the presence of Lt.-Gov. Robert Duffy, more than 500 active and retired military and their families, as well as 9/11 families and NYPD, FDNY and Port Authority Police Department families. Since then it was moved to Liberty Park and on September 13, 2016, the statue was rededicated at it’s permanent site on the south side of Ground Zero in Liberty Park. The park is above the World Trade Center's Vehicular Security Center and overlooks the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
America’s Response Monument was intended to work as the “most grateful recognition by the American people of their extraordinary service and sacrifice.”
Footnotes & References
3. Pentagon: The headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense
4. Blumberg: A bronze sculptor who has completed more than 200 private and public commissions, with America’s Response Monument being his most well-known work. He has received a number of awards after he opening his studio full-time in 2000.