Thursday, January 25, 2007

Save The 9/11 Memorial

Today I received a very important email that I want to share with all of you. It concerns the 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center site. I really hope all of you will join me and support this really worthy and important cause. Mayor Bloomberg's plan for the names listing at the WTC creates two seperate memorials, and parts of it are simply asinine. So once again the families and friends of the WTC victims have to stand and fight against these politicians who don't seem to have a clue on how to put together a proper memorial.

It is so important that we properly remember our beloved family and friends who were lost that terrible day. They were all victims, but are also American heroes. They were human beings, not anonymous names. Future generations will judge us by how we put this memorial together.

Let's do it right.

There's a web site you can go to to support the 9/11 families and sign a petition to get the names of the victims remembered in a proper way.

Why This Matters

The World Trade Center Memorial is being built to remember and honor the 2, 979 people who died in two terrorist attacks on our country. Unlike most memorials, it is being built on sacred ground, where the attacks actually occurred. Additionally, the memorial site is the final resting place of 1,151 human beings whose families received no bodily remains for a proper burial. Mayor Bloomberg’s memorial plan strips those who died of their essential human qualities and renders each individual nothing more than a place marker in a statistic.

We have launched this site because your voice is not being heard. For 500 million dollars--federal tax dollars, private donations and consumer-supported corporate donations--we deserve a memorial that is historically meaningful. We deserve a memorial that does not strip victims of all identity. A memorial in name only is no memorial at all.

Please sign our petition. Contact the politicians and the media in the Call to Action section. Send your friends and family to our site. We encourage you to look at the names listing mock-ups which graphically illustrate and compare our proposal with the mayor’s plan. Note the information added or lost in each plan. Decide for yourself whether properly including information that renders this a more poignant and historic memorial can be accomplished simply and elegantly. We think it can.

We believe that the World Trade Center Memorial should answer the questions that we, as family members, are always asked by members of the public: “What was his name?” “How old was she?” “Where did he work?” “Where was she located?”

The WTC Memorial must be able to answer for every victim, when we no longer can.

How We Got Here

In October of 2004, after 17 months of discussions, the leaders of 32 organizations representing hundreds of 9/11 family members signed a proposal on how to list the names of their loved ones at the World Trade Center Memorial. The proposal was entitled, "Remembering People’s Lives, Not Only Names." It was submitted to Governor George E. Pataki, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, WTC Memorial Foundation chairman John C. Whitehead and memorial designer Michael Arad. The families requested that the people who were killed in the September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 terrorist attacks be grouped and identified by their affiliations and floors (where applicable), location and age. In addition, civilians would be listed in alphabetical order within their affiliation and uniformed services personnel (including airline crews) would be listed in rank order within their affiliations with their ranks preceding their names.

Despite having the support of the vast majority of families--including 1,700 firefighter and civilian families and the leaders of the uniformed services unions--the politicians ignored our proposal.

When those same politicians realized that the building and operating costs of the WTC Memorial had skyrocketed, they commissioned architect Frank Sciame to revise the memorial design. In April 2006, family leaders met with the WTC Memorial Foundation’s Executive Committee and explained the family name proposal. Calling the names issue the “heart and soul” of the memorial, members of the committee agreed with our proposal. But the politicians would not allow Frank Sciame to resolve the names issue, claiming that it was not a budgetary item.

When the memorial design was revised and moved above ground, eliminating the connecting passageway between the two memorial voids, we modified our proposal in keeping with the new design. Uniformed services personnel agreed to be listed in the south tower and we all agreed that the affiliations and floors would be listed on the new face plates instead of within the ribbon of names.

Still, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki refused to implement the family proposal despite its overwhelming support. The failure to resolve the controversy hindered fundraising, frustrating family members, who were eager to put the issue to rest and assist with the national campaign. Even though Mayor Bloomberg had no official role regarding the memorial, the WTC Memorial Foundation board found itself unable to resolve the issue without angering the mayor, who made it known that his preference was for the names to be listed randomly and without group affiliations.

Worried about the lagging fundraising, the Executive Committee convinced the mayor to take over chairmanship of the foundation and use his considerable resources as a philanthropist, and his status as chief executive of the City of New York, to recharge the moribund fundraising campaign. But, warned by City Hall insiders that accepting the families’ names proposal would essentially mean “going to war” with the mayor, they were forced to take the mayor on his terms. That meant caving in to his insistence that the "heart and soul" of the memorial, the names, be listed his way: random listings, no corporate names, no groupings of first responders, and no military or paramilitary ranks be identified.

News of the mayor’s chairmanship was deliberately timed with the announcement of a new corporate gift, but the fundraising failed to gain new momentum. The controversy lingered.

And so, just before the holidays, without meeting with family leaders, the mayor announced his “compromise” plan to the media as a fait accomplis . The full board had no opportunity to consider the families’ universally-accepted alternative, nor were they allowed to hear and vote for or against the mayor’s plan. In fact, board members learned about the plan the same way they learned that they were “voting in” the mayor as chair, when it was announced by the media the very same day.

The media was given a press release and statements that declared the names problem finally “solved.” According to press reports, almost everyone was happy.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Mayor's Plan

The mayor’s plan essentially creates two different memorials.

On the North Tower footprint:

Approximately 2,400 victims will be listed in "no discernable order," that is, visitors will see rows and rows of uninterrupted, evenly spaced names without ages. There will be nothing to indicate who they were, where they were and how they were connected to each other. Visitors looking at the North Tower names will not see that the attack wiped out 658 friends and co-workers from one company alone, Cantor Fitzgerald, that 295 were lost at Marsh & McLennan, that Aon lost 175. Visitors could assume that all 2,400 worked for the same company, or that they didn't work at all. Who they were, where they were and how they were connected is deemed a distraction from the designer‘s overarching concept of the “randomness of death.” None of the names will be in alphabetical order; they will appear random. People with identical names (yes, there are victims with exactly the same name), will simply appear to be listed twice with no explanation.

On the South Tower footprint:

In stark contrast to the list of 2,400 unaffiliated names of the North Tower, the South Tower will meticulously list the affiliations (more than 120) of the 406 first responders and uniformed services personnel. They will be listed and identified with their brother firefighters and fellow officers, but will be stripped of their ranks, as will the clergy. Father Mychal Judge, the first member of the FDNY to die that morning, will not be identified to future generations as a chaplain. Likewise, members of our U.S. armed forces who died in the Pentagon will not be identified by rank or branch of service. Army and Navy officers, soldiers and sailors, all of whom were posthumously awarded Purple Hearts in recognition that they died in the service of their country in an act of war will be stripped of their ranks. The mayor is insisting that they be listed as civilians.

Those who died on the planes will be grouped together, however, the airline crews--paramilitary professionals who were the “first responders” in the air, will not be identified, as if the planes were flown and staffed by, well, no one. The airplanes will not be named as we know them, as “American” and “United” flights, because according to the mayor, listing corporate identities is “a form of advertising.” The memorial will list flight numbers only: “11, 77, 93 and 175.”

And so, what we are left with is two sets of victims, those in the North Tower footprint who will not be identified in any way that conveys a sense of humanity or context, but instead serving to sustain the designer’s concept that they all died randomly and alone. This, to us, is not how anyone in America viewed them, except perhaps, the terrorists who killed them.

The second set of victims are the valiant first responders, who, appropriately, will be listed by precinct, squad, engine or ladder company, but whose essential identity as “firefighter” “lieutenant” “captain” “chief” will be omitted. Thus, visitors to the memorial will be deprived of seeing that officers didn’t order their men into those buildings, they led them in, and died with them. Future generation will not see that the city’s first responders were decimated, and yet, we recovered. We survived. We rebuilt. We cannot be inspired by a memorial that refuses to tell the public the narrative history through the people who died and overcame.


Suldog said...

Q, it sounds like a good cause. I'll head on over to the site.

The Omnipotent Q said...

Very much appreciated, Suldog. Thanks so much for your support.

Christine E. said...

This is deplorable--that designer (amoung others) is an idiot...Death man be "random" in the grand scheme of things, but when someone we love dies, it's anything but...

Heading over as well...

Hang in there, Quinn...

The Omnipotent Q said...

Actually Christine, memorial designer Michael Arad is a good and decent man with honorable intentions. I find the mayor's attitude rather stupid and condescending. Most people in NYC want a beautiful memorial with the victims remembered in the best possible way. It can't be slipshod. We're dealing with politicians here, and that's always a problem...

The Omnipotent Q said...

Thanks also for your support, Christine, as I really appreciate it.