DATE: 1/07/2004 09:43:00 AM
WTC Memorial - Some people like it, some don't. Personally, I think it's appropriately somber. I thought "Garden of Lights" or whatever it was called was hideously maudlin, and some of the others were far too dependent upon technological bells and whistles. The winning selection is one that will last. Some victim's families are upset with the new design, saying the minimalist design minimizes the horror of that day.
I don't want to sound completely heartless, but the form the WTC memorial takes should not be completely dependent upon the feelings of the victim's families. While I hope whatever does go on that spot will allow families to find a quiet place to mourn the loved ones they have lost, personal grief is subjective and cannot really be memorialized. Three thousand people died that day, most of them at the World Trade Center. There are thousands of loved ones left to mourn those who died, with thousands of opinions on how the deaths of their loved ones should be remembered.
When the Vietnam memorial design was unveiled, it was reviled by many. It is now one of the most popular memorials on the mall. The black wall stands in stark contrast to the white marble that fills the national Mall, making it a moving symbol of the country's losses in Vietnam. The simplicity of the memorial touches those who lost loved ones in the war and those who were born as it was ending. When I saw the wall for the first time, I was struck by how many names were on it. It brought the tragedy of that war home. The names, though, are also personal enough to provide families a place to go and mourn - to leave behind pictures, letters, gifts.
The WTC memorial should have the same timelessness, the same sense of dual purpose. The deaths of thousands on September 11 was a personal tragedy for each person that lost someone. It was also a national tragedy, one over which millions of Americans wept. The memorial design chosen contrasts its surroundings, much like the Vietnam wall. It is a place of quiet in a city of noise, a place of stillness in a city of movement. The best test for a memorial is what story will it tell after those who remember have passed?
The best memorial to those lost at the World Trade Center will not be one of stone and water, but of the stories passed on to future generations about those lost. It sounds cliche to say it, but the best memorials to a life lost are not those designed by others, but held in the heart of those who loved the one now gone. The new memorial will be a place where such stories can be told, and remembered. It will also be a place where those who have lost no one close to them, but still mourned, can get a sense of what occurred on that day.