UT772 DC10 Memorial

Artist: Guillaume Denoix de Saint Marc
Location: Ténéré Desert, The Republic of Niger
Year of completion: 2007
Researcher: Megan Guerber

UT772 DC10 Memorial commemorates a terrorist attack on UTA Flight 772 that resulted in 170 casualties. On September 19, 1989 the plane exploded and crashed in the Ténéré region of the Sahara, an inaccessible and harsh desert terrain. The flight was heading to Paris from the Republic of Congo. Libyan terrorists had planted a suitcase bomb that detonated during flight. There were no survivors.

Relatives of the victims fought for restitution from the Libyan government. Led by Guillaume Denoix de Saint Marc, a French salesman and marketer who lost his father in the attack, $170,000,000 (£104,000,000) was finally awarded in 2004. This entire large sum was divided equally among the relations of the 170 victims.

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Denoix de Saint Marc set up the NGO Les Familles de l’Attentat du DC10 d’UTA in order to track down the victim’s relatives and distribute the money. Enough money was accrued in interest to fund the organization. In 2007, Denoix de Saint Marc organized a reconnaissance trip to the crash site with the relatives of two other UTA Flight 772 victims. There, among the debris, Denoix de Saint Marc was inspired to build a memorial that would be visible by planes passing overhead. Permission was sought from Les Familles de l’Attentat du DC10 d’UTA before proceeding.

Colleagues of Exxon employees who had died in the attack had already erected a small memorial in their honor: a plaque inscribed with their names on the starboard wing. This element was incorporated in Denoix de Saint Marc’s design and today bears the names of all 170 victims.

UT772 DC10 Memorial is a life-sized silhouette of a plane outlined by large stones. These stones fill a circle around it that is 200-foot in diameter (roughly 70 meters). The plane’s outline points toward Paris, the original destination of the flight. 170 shattered mirrors encircle the site, one for each victim. These were placed intact upon flat stone pedestals, then broken to represent the lost life. Four points are also drawn in stone around the circle’s circumference, creating a compass that shows the direction the plane is headed. Behind its silhouette, three straight lines project outward to indicate the plane’s forward movement.

Although the memorial is in a secluded, hard to reach area, it is easily accessible via the Internet. It is prominent enough in size to be visible from space and can be viewed via Google Earth. This was a happy accident, as the memorial was originally intended for aircraft passing overhead.

The memorial was largely hand built, with rocks traveling in from 70 kilometers away. 140 locals spent six weeks building it. After its completion, enough money was left over from the accrued interest that Denoix de Saint Marc was able to set up a foundation for victims of terrorism, which he now runs. This foundation is open to all victims or their relations regardless of religion or nationality. In this way, the tragedy of UT772 DC10 helps to fight against terrorism today.

UT772 DC10 Memorial is an international sign, available via the Internet, which demonstrates the continuation of life after terrorism. Its design to be viewed from overhead is an innovative approach to public art, yet its quiet symbols, like the plaque and the broken mirrors, make a lasting, poetic impression that is intended to be seen up close. The memorial’s symbolic language resonates with a large audience while its size forces us to remember the lives lost on September 19, 1989 in the Ténéré desert.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency