Americans react to the 9/11 tribute
On Sept. 11, 2001, Candace Burton, a resident of Queens, NY, was at school in Lower Manhattan. Despite her close proximity, Candace has yet to visit the World Trade Center site since the fall of the Twin Towers.
“I’ve been near Ground Zero but never actually been there because I didn’t want to see it,” she said. “But having a memorial would be different; I’d like to see that.”
The memorial officially opened to the general public on Sept. 12 after it was unveiled during the tenth anniversary ceremony of 9/11. The memorial is now the largest memorial in the country, costing 700 million dollars of both public and private funds. It is also paired with the extensive project of rebuilding the World Trade Center, which has yet to be completed.
An international competition, hosted in 2003 by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, helped choose the memorial’s design. The competition received 5,201 entrants from 63 nations. The responsibility of choosing a winning design was given to a 13-member jury made up of mainly art experts, including memorial designer Maya Lin, as well as victims’ family members and local businesses. The winning design, “Reflecting Absence,” was submitted by an Israeli-American architect, Michael Arad. The “footprints” of the Twin Towers have been converted into deep pools filled by pouring waterfalls. Around the edge of the pools are the names of the 9/11 victims.
As a commemoration to an act of terrorism, this space can have a range of purposes, including acting as a symbol of American resiliency, a tool to garner public support for war on terror, a way to educate future generations and a tribute to heroism. It can also act as a burial ground for the thousands of people whose bodies were never found.
Farrah Hoffman lives in the small town of Owatonna, Minn. over a thousand miles away from New York City, but she is still looking forward to visiting the memorial. Hoffman is the senior marketing specialist at Viracon Glass, the glass company selected to work on the first new tower being built at the World Trade Center, “One WTC.” She described her feelings of pride at being included in the rebuilding effort.
“Everyone was very excited and felt honored to be able to be a part of the rebuilding,” Hoffman said. “To create awareness throughout the whole company, T-shirts were made up for everyone to wear with “One WTC” on the back.”
According to a New York Times’ survey, at least 10,000 Americans suffer from chronic depression, survivor’s guilt and post-traumatic stress disorder, and will perhaps look for condolence in this tangible representation of their grief.
However, Erika Doss, professor of American studies at Notre Dame University believes that Americans have always been out of touch with the truth surrounding 9/11 and are once again obeying the government and media’s influence by wanting to visit the memorial. Doss wrote the book Memorial Mania, which examines Americans’ need to memorialize important events with material objects and structures.
“The purpose is to pay tribute to the folks that died, the folks who were murdered,” said Doss. “However, since the attack led to the war we’re currently engaged in, they are intertwined. For a lot of Americans, paying tribute to those who died is invading Afghanistan, Iraq and continuing our now eight-year war in the Middle East. Setting up the people in the planes or in the buildings as heroes of the war on terror is setting them up as players in the invasion of Baghdad- — to play a role in foreign policy. Its not heroic — its exploitative.”
The government does have high expectations for construction at Ground Zero because it must both make sure we ‘never forget’ the tragedy and symbolize America’s resiliency. For this reason the memorial has been designated as a space for people to grieve, while a brand new World Trade Center will demonstrate that the country is all repaired, rebuilt and just as strong as ever.
Burton said that in the end, the memorial is a symbol people needed to be built.
“9/11 was just a bad situation all around. I knew someone whose father died and I didn’t even know what to say. It was bad,” Burton said. “That’s why I just think the memorial is something that needs to happen even if it costs 700 million dollars. I think it’s just really important just so people can go someplace to remember them.”
To visit the memorial, you must first reserve a pass online. Entrance is free but passes are meant to limit crowds, as only a certain quantity is available per day. Most days up through Dec. are already booked. It appears that people from all over the country and even the world feel an obligation to visit the site, especially now that there is a tangible structure to see. Yet, it is up to each of us personally to determine what 9/11 means and the proper way to honor what was lost.
Moriah Petty is a sophomore TV-R major who is trying to get her pass to the memorial after writing this article. Email her at mpetty1[at]ithaca.edu.