I've been quiet for awhile, busy with other demands and absorbed with following the presidential race and the decline and fall of our financial system. But lately, something has been nagging at me. There is still no World Trade Center Disaster Memorial site.
Yesterday, I heard 1010WINS air another news report about the wrangling that has delayed start of the World Trade Center Memorial project. This is a terrible commentary on the workings of our society. Seven years after that terrible day, there is still no memorial.
It's blasphemous, and yet predictable. All the power blocs: politicians, the Port Authority, real estate moguls, victims' families' organizations, and the State, all had to get their say and give their opinions about the project design. What has delayed things most is that certain of these groups want to secure their control of their piece of the enormous economic development deal that building the memorial site has become. It's no longer a memorial, but a chance to make money. If this had not been so, a memorial could have been completed and dedicated years ago.
Then, I began to wonder, "In this most improbable political season, is it too late to float a completely different idea about how to deal with this power logjam? Would the public pick up on it and support it?"
I believe we could resolve this whole problem in short order, if we could wring most of the profit out of it. I say, "Don't rebuild any commercial space where the Twin Towers stood. Condemn the whole area and make it a national monument, like the Statue of Liberty and the Arlington National Cemetery. Build on any of the surrounding land, but leave the Twin Towers site empty."
I have thought for years that the most sincere expression that could possibly be made to symbolize our national and municipal grief about the attack, and the thousands of lives lost, would be to maintain the destroyed site as an open space. What more powerful statement could be made about the magnitude of our loss than to leave the site empty in the midst of some of the most expensive real estate in America?
There would be an orientation building with a multimedia retrospective of the site before, during, and after the attack. There would certainly be memorials to the victims who died that day, and to the police and fire fighters and other public service personnel who lost their lives. There would be also be amenities, like food stands and sitting areas, encouraging visitors to sit and contemplate the open space. Colored brickwork outlines would enable people to walk around the areas formerly occupied by the two buildings, so people can walk around and internalize the size of the site. So they will contemplate the enormity of our loss, and the power of unreasoning hatred.
What do you think? Is there time to turn this wayward behemoth around?
Monday, July 21, 2008