Home / 9/11 Memorial: Too Little But Not Too Late

9/11 Memorial: Too Little But Not Too Late

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Yesterday, on a bitterly cold winter’s day in lower Manhattan, 9/11 family members, firefighters, and police officers assembled at the Ground Zero site to protest the design of the 9/11 Memorial. Since work is set to begin (in two weeks after many delays) on the memorial to those lost in the 9/11 attacks, this rally makes clear there is a great distance between the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), the State of New York, and New York City, and those people who lost friends, co-workers, and loved ones in the attacks.

One of the most significant issues is the design of the $500 million memorial. The plan is for two sunken pools to be placed in the footprints of each tower with the names of those lost encircling them on interior walls. The idea of a below ground memorial (one not seen from street level) doesn’t seem right to many of the family members of the victims since the attacks and the loss of life occurred high above the granite pit that is now all that is left of the World Trade Center site.

Another glaring concern is the listing of the names themselves. Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steven Cassidy made it clear at the rally yesterday that firefighters, police officers, and civilians need to be listed separately. According to the current plan, approved by both Governor George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, all victims’ names will be listed together with only departmental symbols appearing next to the names of the lost first responders.

Some of the protestors also voiced concern over the safety of the site plan. The below ground design raises concerns that there may be difficulty escaping the memorial during a fire or another terrorist attack. While the LMDC has made claims that the memorial will be safe and able to accommodate the millions of expected visitors each year, that hasn’t done much to ease anyone’s mind.

The most obvious problem here is that there is still a glaring difference between what those in power want (governor, mayor, LMDC) and what those who lost friends and loved ones want for the memorial site. Never has the austere and uncaring attitude of the builders, city, and state been more clear than yesterday at Ground Zero. By basically ignoring the call for a more meaningful and respectful memorial to the 9/11 victims, it is obvious that the design is more suited to generating commerce and recreating the skyline and not to honoring the memory of those lost.

I still believe in building a memorial that will soar into the sky, one separate from the so-called Freedom Tower. When people go to Washington D.C., they are awed by the majestic sight of the Washington Monument as it rockets skyward, as well as other memorials that are above ground. This is what I perceive as the normal way to build a site to those lost; it is something to honor the memory of the person or persons and make the heart leap at its structural magnificence.

Why not have something similar to this at Ground Zero in the form of two towers, smaller than the originals, but looking exactly the same as those that fell? Why not have an eternal flame blazing above ground with the names of the victims displayed prominently in the sunshine and listed separately as the police officers and firefighters are requesting? Why not have something that is apparent and visible as one sails by the city on a ship, flies over it in a plane, or approaches it by car. The Statue of Liberty raises her torch above New York Harbor, and the Ground Zero Memorial should be able to be seen from Liberty Island and not buried underground like something someone is trying to hide.

If things continue on this planned path, it will not just be the friends and loved ones of the victims who are insulted and ignored: it will be the victims themselves who are disparaged and intolerably disrespected by the builders, the city, and the state. We should be better than this; I hope we are better than this; otherwise, all New Yorkers and Americans should hang their heads in shame.

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His books 'A Death in Prague' (2002), 'Move' (2003), 'The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories' (2005), and 'Like a Passing Shadow' (2009) are available in print, online, and as e-books. His latest books 'If the Fates Allow: New York Christmas Stories,' 'Garden of Ghosts,' and 'Flashes in the Pan' are available exclusively on Amazon. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated on writing mostly fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as a faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with 'Blogcritics Magazine' since July 2005 and has written well over 500 articles; previously co-head sports editor, he now is a Culture and Society editor. Having traveled extensively, Victor has visited six continents and intends to get to Antarctica someday where he figures a few ideas for new stories await him.
  • I see the point but I don’t necessarily agree. I’m in D.C., and it’s important to remember that in spite of all the above ground monuments here and the one that soars into the sky, the most visited one in the city is the Vietnam memorial. A memorial that is carved out of the ground itself, rather than stretching up into the sky. And if you’ve ever seen the kind of healing that goes on with the ex-GIs who visit there, you know that there is no more fitting tribute.

    It sounds to me like this WTC memorial is specifically trying to emulate the effect of the Vietnam Memorial. And I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.

  • Rich Blandy

    The designer Michael Arad submitted his design and went through the review process.and his design was selected by the LMDC panel of judges. Everyone else had a chance to submit their design too but those did not win. The judges saw something about Mr. Arad’s design they liked better than the hundreds of others that were submitted. I say great, move forward. Some don’t like it, some do. However you feel about Mr. Arad’s design is the one that is going to be built whether there are protestors standing around singing Kumbaya or not. So get used to this design. Lots of people hated the Vietnam Memorial before it was built saying the color black was bad but now it’s revered as one of the best memorials around. I’ll bet once it is built this new memorial will also be a beacon of hope and healing. Give it a chance. I believe in progress and moving forward instead of letting Ground Zero remain a granite pit. Why become an obstacle to that progress. Help move the site forward not keep it mired in controversy.

  • Thanks for the comments. I think more than anything we who knew and loved victims of the 9/11 attacks want a respectful and dignified memorial. I am open to anything that promotes and honors the memory of those lost, but there are too many people who are unhappy.

    The problem with Arad’s design is exactly what Rich says: it was picked by the LMDC panel, NOT by the victims’ families. They were ignored in the process and have been for a long time.