September 11, 2001 is among a handful of days in history that every American who was alive will remember forever. So the question of memorials is largely moot. Remembering comes automatically. A mind and a soul is all that’s required. But physical memorials to the day’s horrible events and all of its victims abound regardless. To build a memorial is to do more than just remember, it seems. Memorials, we see, are about healing – both of the individual and society itself. And healing can take years -- even decades or an entire lifetime. It is certain that memorials of September 11 will continue to sprout across America and the world for many years to come.
Here is a small list of the memorials (some better known than others) devoted to the events and people of September 11.
Many thousands of websites pay homage to victims and events of September 11, 2001, but perhaps the most compelling is called www.september11victims.com. This site is remarkable because it was begun in the midst of the day itself: September 11, 2001 at 11:05 a.m. in New York City. The site features a running count of victims (24 of whom are still, as of this writing in 2008, still officially listed as “missing”), profiles of each, and a litany of tributes, poetry and other such messages from across America and the globe. This site has become such a trusted resource of information related to September 11 that the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Government’s 9-11 Commission, and other similar groups have cited it in their various official reports. Like many memorials september11victims.com is a memorial first, but it has plenty of other practical applications as well. To find the myriad of other sites that pay homage to September 11 and its victims, one simply has to enter “9-11 Memorial Websites” into most any search engine.
Each of the three locations where the terrorists struck in 2001 will eventually be home to a large scale memorial devoted to the memory of the victims. As of this writing, none of these memorials is complete, and all have been the subject of great discussion (and even controversy) during the planning.
The largest of the national memorials will be in New York City on the site of the World Trade Center. This elaborately designed memorial will be largely underground, and above ground viewers will see two large pools of water covering the area where the two towers stood. The names of all victims of the attacks will be engraved onto the walls of the two pools, and the underground museum will host a number of memorial displays and shrines to the victims. This memorial was the winning design in an international contest. The architects call the design “Reflecting Absence” because the memorial will draw eternal attention to the two missing towers and those who died in the attacks. The memorial was, for a time, slated to have another museum as its neighbor, and this second building was the subject of controversy for the entire site. The International Freedom Center was to have played host to a number of exhibits that some critics said were critical of United States foreign policy over the years. Politicians, family members of September 11 victims, and media commentators objected strongly to the plans for the IFC, and it will not be built on the site. IFC organizers have said they do not intend to pursue an alternate site for the museum.
A memorial at the Pentagon, where 184 people died in the terrorists’ third plane crash of September 11, 2001, was scheduled as of this writing to open on September 11, 2008. This memorial will be a 2 acre heavily wooded park just outside the spot of the Pentagon where the plane crashed. Inside the park will be 184 illuminated benches, one for each victim of the crash. The park will be visible at night from nearby neighborhoods and from the air to planes that fly nearby.
As we have said, all of the memorials have been subject to at least a little controversy in their planning, but the Pentagon memorial seems to have seen the least amount of disagreement. Aside from a few supporters of alternate designs being outspokenly disappointed with the final choice, there seems to have been little opposition to the plans for the Pentagon memorial.
Finally, in Western, Pennsylvania a memorial to the victims of “Flight 93,” -- whose passengers overtook terrorists and crashed the plane into a field rather than into its apparent intended target in Washington D.C. -- is set to open in 2011 after years of emotional and even bitter controversy. At least one outspoken family member of a man who died on Flight 93 has launched a campaign opposed to the plan for this memorial known as the “Bowl of Embrace.” The campaign has been picked up by bloggers and pundits across America, and family members of other victims have responded emotionally and even angrily.
The controversy is over the design’s use of a half-mile path shaped as a crescent and lined with red trees. For the critics, this design is too similar to the traditional Red Crescent shaped symbol prominent in the Muslim religion. (The September 11 terrorists were fundamentalists of that faith.) Further, the critics claim, the crescent opens to the south east, directly in line with The Mecca, the spiritual home for Muslims and the direction that Muslim’s traditionally face during prayer. More than one critique has said the memorial simply amounts to a Mosque built at the expense of the American government and donors.
Designers, and most of the family members of the 40 victims, say that any resemblance the design has to Islamic symbols is coincidence, and they have refused to make wholesale changes to the memorial plans. Architects have attempted to compromise with the critics by lengthening the ends of the crescent, so that the design does not so closely resemble the Islamic crescent. But that has not silenced the critics.
Nevertheless, ground is set to be broken on the memorial sometime soon (as of this writing), and the memorial is slated to open – as currently designed -- in 2011.
These are just a few – arguably the most important and prominent – of the memorials inspired by the events of September 11, 2001. Hundreds – or quite possibly hundreds of thousands – of other memorials have risen across America and the world. These memorials are in the form of painting, photographs, songs, statues, murals, and even buildings and highways. There currently is no clearinghouse that attempts to document all of the September 11 memorials in the world, but, if one were to begin, it would be a very busy operation indeed.
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