September 11 and bad memorials

To be fair, memorials are a tricky business. Especially when you start to stray from the neoclassic Lincoln–Jefferson style. This week, another September 11 passed. New York’s annual commemoration of the September 11 attacks is melodrama; the names of the murdered New Yorkers are read over a background of sad music. It’s a little crass, but it’s nothing compared with the self-indulgence of the actual memorial: two giant, be-fountained holes in the ground. Like politicians competing to be the most indignant about a public outrage, or drama students determined to show how affected they were by an art movie, New York’s powers that be decided to revel in their self-important self-pity. Maybe I’m out of line; I’m sure lots and lots of people will think I am. To me, the whole thing seems insincere. A boondoggle vanity project; the trappings and the suits of woe.

To say nothing of the fact that if you’d asked one of the hijackers, back in 2001, what he hoped to see at the World Trade Center ten or twenty years down the line, two giant holes in the ground would have been near the top of his list. San Francisco didn’t commemorate the earthquake by preserving the city’s empty foundations, and England didn’t remember the blitz by leaving London as a big pile of rubble. The right response to losing the Twin Towers wasn’t keeping their footprints empty, it was building new, taller, better towers.

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