Getting the 9/11 Memorial Right

The original proposal for the 9/11 memorial was that the names of all the brave and innocent victims who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001 at the WTC be listed there in random order with no identification of their ages, affiliations, locations etc. at the time of the tragedy.

I think this is wrong.

I support the family members’ wishes that the names be grouped together by identifying affiliations such as age, W.T.C. floor number, firm name, firehouse or other emergency services unit, or the flight number.

I support the family members’ wishes because it’s the right thing to do. There has been widespread opposition to the random listing. The leaders of 32 family groups signed a document two years ago calling for this change. There is no constituency for a random listing, aside from the architect, Michael Arad, and the mayor.

Grouping the names will convey more of the history of 9/11. It will tell future generations specifics of what happened on that day. It will give more identity to the victims – whether they were emergency services or office workers – it makes them more real. Each name will be the only personal part of the public memorial for the family, the only personal expression of their losses.

I'm glad -- especially as a person who has worked with the Cantor Fitzgerald corporation for the past year -- that there is movement in this direction according to the NY Times' recent story.

Still, the Question of Displaying the Names of 9/11

TO the dispute over how 2,979 victims’ names are to be inscribed and arranged at the World Trade Center memorial, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg contributed an indisputable truth last month.

“There is no ‘right’ answer,” he said as he proposed his own imperfect solution in his capacity as the chairman of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation.

Take the question of whether ages ought to be included, as they are around the Marble Collegiate Church at Fifth Avenue and 29th Street, where tags and yellow ribbons hanging on the iron fence memorialize service members who have died in Iraq.

A picture forms in the viewer’s mind. That 43-year-old staff sergeant on one ribbon probably had children. The 19-year-old private on a nearby ribbon might still have been living at home. “It makes it so much more palpable,” said Kim Sebastian-Ryan, who maintains the memorial.

But there is a liability, too, that ages impose an unconscious and unspoken hierarchy. Some may think that a teenager’s death is more grievous, since a promising life has been cut short. Others might view the death of a parent as more tragic.

At ground zero, neither age nor rank nor affiliation nor location were to be specified in the plan presented in 2004 by Mr. Bloomberg, Gov. George E. Pataki and Michael Arad, the architect. Names were to be arrayed randomly around the memorial pools marking the towers’ locations, with shields next to the names of uniformed rescue workers.

Many, perhaps most, relatives of 9/11 victims opposed this plan, including Thomas S. Johnson and Howard W. Lutnick, who are now members of the memorial foundation’s executive committee. Mr. Lutnick is the chairman and chief executive of Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 658 employees in the attack.

A large coalition of advocacy groups representing family members of uniformed workers and civilians — the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund most prominent among them — presented its own plan in 2004. It said names should be listed at the appropriate tower site and by affiliation (like Marsh & McLennan or Fire Department Battalion 1), with ages and floors also inscribed.

Meanwhile, Stephen J. Cassidy, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, who wanted firefighters to be grouped together by unit, was quietly lobbying city and state officials. Four months ago, he made his case in person to Mr. Bloomberg. “To the mayor’s credit,” Mr. Cassidy said, “he made clear to me that he agreed that some changes needed to be made. He didn’t give me a commitment but said he heard me and would take a second look at it.”

After meeting with Mr. Arad and others, the mayor offered a proposal in which uniformed workers would be grouped by unit around the south pool, under inscribed designations like Engine Company 54.

THE names of those who died in the south tower and aboard the jet that hit it would also be around the south pool, as would the names of those on the flights that crashed in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, those who died in the Pentagon itself, those who died in the Feb. 26, 1993, trade center bombing, and those whose exact location on 9/11 is unknown.

Around the north pool would be the names of those who died in the north tower and on the plane that hit it.

Relatives could be listed together. So could co-workers, though their company’s name would not be inscribed, so there would be no precise delineation. Neither rank, age nor floor location would be given.

On Dec. 13, the executive committee of the memorial foundation adopted this proposal by voice vote. Mr. Lutnick did not vote for it or against it. Instead, he abstained.

“Listing the names of victims of the attack together in the appropriate tower is definitely a positive step,” he said in a statement released Tuesday by his office. “However, treating the civilians who were lost differently from uniformed workers by ignoring employees’ affiliations just doesn’t make sense to the victims’ families, and it will be less meaningful to future generations of visitors to the memorial.”

Mr. Johnson voted in favor of the new plan. “With the adjacencies for victims whose families wish them to be listed together, and the removal of the shields, which were so objectionable to so many, this is an approach that I hope will be acceptable to the great majority of the families affected,” he said afterward.

It is acceptable to most family members on the board, though not to Debra Burlingame, whose brother, Charles F. Burlingame III, was the captain of the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon. She said specific information about the victims, including her brother’s rank, ought to be inscribed on the memorial.

To gauge from more than 30 e-mail messages sent to the Blocks column at the encouragement of Bill Doyle, a family advocate, the new plan has left relatives confused and angered.

“The families, as they always have, as they did on the fliers, as they signed the Freedom Tower beam, identify their loved one by company, floor and tower,” wrote Michael Burke, the brother of Capt. William F. Burke Jr. of Engine Company 21.

Some are so dismayed that they said they were beginning to wonder whether they wanted their husbands’ or sons’ names listed at all.

So Mayor Bloomberg was right about something else when he announced the plan. “I don’t expect everyone to be happy with it.”


Anonymous said...

This is absurd. Is it not politically correct to acknowledge the heroism of the firefighters who lost their lives trying to rescue those who were 'unwitting' victims?

Tzvee Zahavy said...

Read it over. Everyone want to recognize them. The question is how.

Anonymous said...

"However,treating the civilians who were lost differently from uniformed workers by ignoring employees' affiliations just doesn't make sense to the victims' families, and it will be less meaningful to future generations of visitors to the memorial." I find that absurd, sorry.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

That means all should have all the information noted - not that we should hide any information.

Anonymous said...

okay, but I think the rescue workers should be treated differently than the others in some way.

Anonymous said...

Conveying the history of 9/11 at the WTC site is exactly what Bloomberg and the handful of intellectuals behind the memorial concept want to avoid. This is what the American people have to understand about this 9/11 non-memorial. It's not about 9/11.

The jury that dictated its concept has said there can be no history or evidence or even mention of the attacks anywhere on the site "in order to preserve the integrity of the memorial."

Including the "how and why" of their deaths, as the flyers of the missing did, would confron visitors with that history. That is exactly what the memorial founders wants to avoid. So there won't be any towers' facade remnant, Koeing Sphere or American flag.

The American people are being lied to.