Monday, September 5, 2016

Indelible Marks

The National September 11 Memorial consists of a forest of trees, with two pools in the center.  The two pools correspond to the footprints of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, which once stood on those exact locations.  The memorial is poignant, powerful, and was so thoroughly thought out that even the arrangement of the victims’ names, attached to the parapets of the memorial pool walls, was not left to chance.  Wikipedia (edits mine):

The names of 2,983 victims are inscribed on 76 bronze plates attached to the parapets of the walls of the memorial pools…  The names are arranged according to an algorithm, creating "meaningful adjacencies" based on relationships—proximity at the time of the attacks, company or organization affiliations (for those working at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon) and in response to about 1,200 requests from family members….

… According to Edith Lutnick (executive director of the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund), "Your loved ones' names are surrounded by the names of those they sat with, those they worked with, those they lived with and, very possibly, those they died with."

I recently visited the memorial, and, as much as I respect those who designed and built it, I was repulsed by its fundamental concept.  And, although I was not directly impacted by the events of September 11, 2001, and am therefore probably unworthy of even commenting on the memorial built to commemorate them, I will do so anyway, justified by the fact that the horrific, cowardly attacks of that fateful day were an affront to all Americans, and, indeed, to all civilized people of the world.

My issue is with the design of the memorial itself.  Two pools, basically two holes in the ground, where the Twin Towers stood.  Where there were two majestic buildings, there are now two horrific scars.  Terrorists the world over can relish in the fact that their odious brethren left indelible marks on New York.  Their handiwork has been made permanent, their mutilation delineated forevermore.  New York has rebuilt and moved on, but the Memorial says, no, the holes are permanent.  The terrorists’ achievement lives on.

In my mind, the memories of each of 9/11’s victims should live on forever.  We should never forget those atrocious events.  But we should totally forget the damage caused by them.  The buildings are gone, but we built better ones.  Terrorists, you did some damage, but we came back, and are better than ever.  The September 11 Memorial should honor those lost on that fateful day, yet in no way solidify the dastardly deeds of those responsible.  It should say to the terrorists, you hurt us that day, but you cannot touch us.  The destruction you wrought was temporary, and we easily recovered.  You left no permanent damage.  You failed.

Yet those holes in the ground do the opposite.  They say to the terrorists, we are scarred now.  You have left indelible damage.  You defeated us, and here’s the proof.  We are not memorializing the victims of your deeds, we are instead memorializing the deeds themselves.

The names of those lost that day should not meekly surround monuments designed to outline the damage done to our nation, and our world.  They should not serve to silhouette what the terrorists took from us.  They should have proudly soared to the sky, engraved on the side of One World Trade Center.  They should not be saying, “this is what we lost.”  They should be saying, “this is who we are.”

The greatest city in the world deserves nothing less.