Eight finalists for the WTC Memorial competition have been chosen. The largest and by far most controversial
competition for a memorial continues to spawn controversies. Overall, very few people are happy with these eight designs.
Numerous comments by reporters and on website forums deplore the sterility, and the lack of incorporation of actual elements
from Ground Zero. - Paul Goldberger in his story MEMORIES (The New Yorker online http://newyorker.com/talk/content/?031208ta_talk_goldberger) writes "One of the best ideas proposed after September 11th was to preserve the twisted and burned shards of steel from
the façade of the twin towers, but that seems to have been forgotten, as if these relics were too specific, or too painful.
We have opted instead for designs that could be commemorating any sadness, not the particular horror of the World Trade Center
disaster, and most of them have the bland earnestness of a well-designed public plaza." Clay Risen's lengthy report
Memorial Eight Embody Dogma After Maya Lin (New York Observer http://observer.com/pages/story.asp?ID=8246) is the most comprehensive dissection of what is wrong with all the finalists' designs and memorial design in general "What's
more, the designs, lacking history, are merely emotional; and by refusing to make a single, historical comment about Sept.
11 in favor of providing a bunch of cheap, abstraction-inspired thrills, they merely extend the tragedy. They are little more
than theme parks of emotion-in this corner, relive that oceanic sense of loss you felt that morning; over there, cry over
the sheer number of the dead."
I have to admit that 2 of the designs I found "soothing" and adequate as "memorials." Suspending Memory
by Joseph Karadin with Hsin-Yi Wu, create comforting spaces over the footprints and suspend them in space over a pool of water
with a bridge connecting the two. And I liked the concept of the two fields of individualized glass steles amid a leafy arbor,
with the tower like monuments for each individual. And yes, the most important aspect is to honor the individuals whose lives
were lost. But without some sort of tie in to what happened on the physical site that day, without any reminders of how those
4.5 acres were transformed into a tangled mass grave, what kind of memory or emotions will these memorials evoke decades in
the future? The images of Ground Zero after the Towers fell and through the ensuing months are just as vital to our remembering
of the dead and missing as are their names and faces.
Yes, there will be a museum, elsewhere, where artifacts from Ground Zero will be displayed. However,
a memorial is where people come to experience the spiritual side of remembering. A place in time and space where they can
reflect upon the events of the past, grieve, wrap themselves around something tangible that can take them back to that day.
One does not do that in a museum setting!
Someone I know who lives and works near Ground Zero says he feels he carries a bit of it around inside of
him because he inhaled the dust on that day. I have in a small container a spoonful of that dust, and consider it the most
sacred remains of all that was left of the Towers. After all, there might be human DNA mixed into it! Then there are the iron
beams that survived the fires. Twisted, mangled, these have appeared in memorial after memorial throughout our country. People
go up and touch them, a physical way of being close to what now exists only in memory. St. Francis church on 32nd St. in Manhattan
has a beautiful memorial to the firefighters and the late Father Judge. It has a stained glass panel depicting firefighters
at Ground Zero that is very moving. Twisted fragments of the towers' beams are a part of this memorial and, one again,
they evoke the greatest emotional response. These beams are the objects, that in their twisted state, scream of that time
of pain and destruction. People come up, touch and stroke them. It takes one back in time like nothing else can.
The beams and other objects surviving Ground Zero have become our 21st century relics. They hark back to
the Catholic Church's tradition of venerating relics of their saints. Pieces of clothing that came in contact with the individual,
or pieces of hair or bone, were encased and the faithful allowed to touch it. A way for the faithful to connect with that
saint and maybe even experience a healing. In Victorian times, individuals would take a lock of hair from their dearly departed
and encase it in a locket, hung close to the heart. A way of remaining connected with that loved one.
a bit strange that we love to view gory news stories, watch reality TV shows, and were glued to our sets for days at a time
after 9/11 watching and rewatching footage of the Towers as they burned and crashed? Yet we shy away from incorporating any
physical reminder of that horror in our memorial. Ground Zero's Pit has been swept clean. On that piece of land nothing remains
of that day; not a splinter nor a shard. Will the memorial just cover it all up? Will that day become like footprints in the
dust? Once there, but now blown away?
(c) 2003 Leona M Seufert