The WTC Memorial?
I talk a lot about rebuilding the Twin Towers and the LMDC's outright refusal to even acknowledge it as a viable option for the WTC site.
However, what can be seen as even a greater injustice is occurring at the WTC footprints themselves.
The WTC Memorial, under the control of the LMDC, the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has been sanitized almost to the point of invisibility. Artifacts like the twisted metal facade of the Twins, wrecked fire trucks, the flag that was raised by the three firefighters, the homemade flyers and posters of the Missing, and other elements that were assumed would automatically be a part of the memorial will not be included.
Now, I'm not calling for the entire memorial to be all flag waving with a CD of pro-American music to be played on "repeat all" while bystanders cheer "USA! USA!" repeatedly. But to go the other way and have the memorial evoke nothing will make the memorial less and less significant as time goes on. That may seem impossible to those of us who lived during 9/11, but in future generations, the emotions felt about the attacks will not be the same because they didn't see it live on television. They just accept it as a part of history (much like how most of us see the events of Pearl Harbour). The memorial will be the central repository of where the story of 9/11 will be kept. As such, it must evoke the same emotions that we felt on 9/11 decades after the attacks. And the evolution of the memorial to today has shown that a bad idea from the beginning is still a bad idea no matter how many times you sugar coat it. Its influence has spread from the overall design of the underground
facility to even the small details.
Case in point: The names in the memorial will be placed in random order
. The names would not contain any rank or designation for police or firefighters. They would not contain location, companies, or any other identifying features other than the names alone.
That doesn't seem like much from the outset. Mayor Bloomberg believes that the randomness of the attacks would lead to suggest that the names should be randomized. He wanted to show the enormity of the attacks and the randomness of war. He wanted to show that everyone was equal. Sounds very idealistic. It's also very, very wrong.
First, from a logistical standpoint, it will be a nightmare for family members to find their loved ones' names. They may have to sift through 2,900 other names to find them. Placing the names in some sort of order would eliminate the sifting and let the family members do what they were there to do in the first place- grieve for their loved one. Not to say that the other 2,900 names aren't just as important. They are all important. But for the family members, they are not planning to read through a multitude of names like the rest of us who will visit the site, they're looking for one. On a side note, where will the names of the February 26, 1993 victims be placed?
Next, from a psychological standpoint, it makes no sense. People tend to want to find order in even the most chaotic of situations. That's why, since the official list of the dead was finalized, the names were written or read in some sort of order- even if it was only alphabetical. On the city-funded anniversary gatherings at 9/11, they announce the names in alphabetical order. In other lists, they are announced in groups (what flight or tower they were in or which firehouse or police station). In any case, there was some sort of order. This wasn't just a group of random people who were killed on a town square in a bomb blast. These were people who have histories together; people who have known each other for decades. These are people who share common stories. So, to break them up to evoke an esoteric message on war in general is counterproductive and selfish on the part of Mayor Bloomberg.
Finally, from an historical standpoint, the names will lose their meaning over time. Future generations will not know who Father Mychal Judge (the first recorded casualty of the WTC attacks and chaplain of the Fire Department) was, since he will just be named as "Mychal Judge". Now, I'm not asking for full biographies or something really in depth, but when you completely remove the "who" from the names in the site, you're just left with a group of names. Names that fewer and fewer people will recognize. Placing the names in some sort of order (grouping by company or plane or firehouse/police station) will at least give a common thread from the names generations down the line. Listing something more than the names alone will tell some story behind the people who died when no one else can.
The minimalist design of the memorial itself evokes no emotion at all. The sting of the attacks felt by visiting the memorial will be dulled over time to the point where future generations will just view it as another urban park in Lower Manhattan. For the site of the worst terrorist attack on US soil, that is unacceptable. This isn't an art project- this is hallowed ground. This memorial could be built about any event- it's a one-size-fits-all memorial with no references to 9/11 or 2/26/1993. Now don't get me wrong; if you know me long enough, you know that I love minimalist (especially Miesian) design. But minimalism has a time and a place. Now is not the time, and the WTC memorial is certainly not the place.
And there are other massively wrongheaded ideas behind the WTC memorial that I won't go into right now. My suggestion for you is to check out Take Back the Memorial (http://www.takebackthememorial.com/
) to learn more. And no- unlike the Twin Towers Alliance, I am not directly involved with this site. But I do support its efforts. While the acts of the LMDC on the buildings on the WTC site is insulting, the acts of the WTCMF and Mayor Bloomberg is downright heartbreaking.