Fitting Tribute for Flight 93?
Paul Murdoch Architects
"And do you wonder how this memorial design--benignly passive at best, offensive and inexplicably clueless at worst--possibly passed muster as the best representation of the spirit, courage, and resilience of the 40 passengers who saved countless American lives?" Michelle Malkin
The media brouhaha over the proposed Flight 93 Memorial has come and gone, for now. But every day our leaders continue to show themselves to be venal and uncaring. And every day ordinary citizens still step up and Do the Right Thing.
Which gives the Flight 93 Memorial more context, and requires us to seek more discussion and debate. All memorials, all sacrifices by everyday Americans deserve more attention. And although I'm almost choking on the words, I'm compelled to say (take me now, Satan): I agree with Michelle Malkin about the Flight 93 Memorial.
We have different reasons. And I'd like to think mine reflect more rational thought and less, well, conservative rationale.
I was, born, raised, educated, married and still live in Pennsylvania (after a few forays to national and international locales). Back in the day, I worked for a Governor of PA. During that time and then subsequently while working for two presidential candidates, I traveled almost every inch of this state, including the tiny burg of Shanksville. So when Flight 93 went down there on 9/11, I felt more than a passing connection with the event, and the place.
Like most of us, I've followed many 9/11 stories the past four years, and viewed with interest a variety of proposed memorials all over the country. There were a few early passes at a pastoral Shanksville memorial which seemed fitting in content and design. A memorial should be a Living tribute, showing Growth as well as Respect. Life, after all, does go on. And memories expressed through the beauty of nature have more value in my mind than those too overwrought in granite and steel.
However. The most important component of a memorial is its symbolism. It's got to evoke something real and special and lasting to meet its twin goals of providing comfort and fitting memories for those here now, and representing a historic event for those who come in the future.
So. A Red Crescent in Shanksville. Is the primary symbol of Islam really appropriate as centerpiece for a memorial to American patriots killed by a corrupted fringe group of Islamic terrorists? Whether it's meant that way or not, I don't think it is. In fact, it actually defeats the purpose by seeming to dishonor a whole people, most of whom who are as much victims of terrorism as we Americans.
Appearance is reality when it comes to memorials, especially these days.
When the Vietnam Memorial was first unveiled to the public, I loved it instantly. Remember all the nay-sayers claiming it was cold and harsh and too plain, too ordinary? History has proved them wrong, and not just for artistic reasons. The War in Vietnam was a travesty. There was nothing patriotic about it. On the contrary, it tore the country apart because it was fought for political and economic gain, which, in the end, gained us nothing. Brave men and women--as always, the least advantaged among us--died needlessly and horribly for rich men's purposes.
A clean, stark, distinctive and moving tribute was imperative to honor their memories. No statues of soldiers erecting flags of victory could possibly represent the War in Vietnam -- there were no victories to celebrate. Only pointless suffering, and loss. It's important--crucial--to recognize the sacrifice of every single man and woman who served in Vietnam, in clear and lasting tribute. The Wall, with its rows and rows and rows of names, does just that. It's about the People, not the War.
A memorial for Flight 93 should be especially about the people -- in this case, 40 ordinary Americans who in an instant became soldiers in the War against Terror. And particularly because they were not trained soldiers, yet still unhesitatingly gave their lives for their country, their names and their heroism should be recognized, first and foremost.
They literally stepped up and Did the Right Thing, and in doing so, saved countless American lives. That alone convinces me we should demand that every memorial be "the best representation of the spirit, courage, and resilience" we can provide. And there must be no possible misinterpretation of the meaning of their sacrifice, and its impact on all of us.
Memorials do more than honor the dead. They also inspire the living. These days, sadly, we need all the unequivocal, clear, heartening inspiration we can get.
Labels: Taking on Terrorism