Let 9/11 families take the lead on name listings
One of the most emotional and difficult issues connected to the World Trade Center memorial is how to list the victims names. Memorial designer Michael Arad proposed a random listing with shield insignias near the uniform officers who died. There is widespread opposition among relatives of the victims to the random grouping and this idea should finally be scrapped.
There have been many instances when we have criticized family groups for going too far, asking for too much and hindering the rebuilding efforts, but the relatives must be the dominant voice on this issue. The name will be the only personal part of the memorial for each family.
Many favor the names being listed around the Twin Tower footprint where their loved one died, and being grouped together with the people they worked or died with. These are some of the reasonable requests that were made to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation two years ago and should be honored as long as no family is forced to put their loved ones name in a grouping they dont want.
There are 2,979 names of people known to have been killed on Sept. 11, 2001 and on Feb. 26, 1993, the first time the W.T.C. was attacked by terrorists, and any listing plan will be opposed by some families. But 32 leading 9/11 family members many representing large groups of relatives with a range of 9/11 concerns signed the 2004 proposal, which contained many good ideas, including listing the age of the victims and their affiliations.
The memorial wont, and shouldnt, tell the entire story of 9/11 that will be the job of the adjacent museum but it should tell more than will be told with the random listing of names. Every life taken was equally precious, but this tragedy is even more heartbreaking because of the fact that so many of the office workers and rescue workers killed were so young. The names of the companies will say something about the historical moment when the Financial District was attacked and we think will be meaningful to future generations visiting the memorial.
Grouping firefighters and police officers together as many of their families want will eliminate the need for the shields, which would create a visual hierarchy and make some lives seem more valuable than others. Thomas Johnson, who is chairperson of the W.T.C. Memorial Foundation boards executive committee and a member of the L.M.D.C. board, and who lost a son in the attack, has said the shields should be removed and we agree.
The 2004 plan also calls for creating a separate area for the names of people killed at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, which we dont endorse because it will require another redesign of the memorial. We sense flexibility among some relatives on this point and that issue should not hold up what needs to be done now.
Empower family members more, drop the random listing and shields, and talk with them about listing the names in a way that conveys more of what happened on those two terrible days. Giving the families more choice and control will make it easier to find a solution with broad support.