Volume 16, Number 28 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 9-16, 2003

Letters to the Editor

Remember the sacrifice

To The Editor:
I agree with much of David Stanke’s views upon the eight design finalists for the World Trade Center Memorial. Each, as I see it, have major flaws that can be easily resolved (Talking Point, Nov. 25 –Dec. 1, “How the memorial designs fail and succeed”).

I am a New Yorker and also someone who lost a brother on Sept. 11, Capt. William F. Burke, Jr. of Engine 21. He lived in Manhattan since 1982.

I certainly do not want a memorial which a large percentage of residents are going to give their own resentful nickname. I want a memorial that works for all and especially future generations. My first concern would cost no additional dollars and impact no one else in any way. For the vast majority of people, it is a non-issue but it is vital to the success of the memorial.

There should be no “issue” regarding honoring the sacrifice of the rescue workers. The Memorial Mission Statement, remarkably, does not even include the word “sacrifice.” It is remarkable because the truth of the day cannot be told without it.

To honor a firefighter or a police officer who falls in the line of duty by department, company and rank is not “special” recognition. It is what we, the community they died serving, properly owe him or her. A memorial that does not recognize my brother’s sacrifice does not honor him. We cannot dishonor those who gave their lives; their actions on Sept. 11 guarantee that. But if we fail to recognize their sacrifice, if we do not tell future generations who they were and what they did, then we certainly dishonor ourselves. The memorial cannot succeed if it, for some unexplainable reason, fails to recognize and honor this sacrifice that inspired us all in one of America’s darkest hours. Let’s face it; people will visit expecting to see the firefighters; they will be confused and resentful if they are essentially “left out.”

In 1949, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, William Faulkner said, “There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up?” “I decline,” he went to say, “to accept the end of man — I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail. He is immortal — because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”

On Sept. 11, we all know, we all saw, though it was not exclusive to, but no one epitomized this spirit better than the firefighter. This triumph of humanity cannot decently be neglected at the memorial.

It is the “poet’s duty and privilege,” Faulkner concluded, “to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and the honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which has been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be a record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”

At the W.T.C. Memorial, it is the designers and the jury who have the duty and the privilege of the poet, to produce a memorial worthy of the spirit we saw exhibited Sept. 11.
 Michael Burke

Wils clarifies

To The Editor:
I believe Downtown Express to be an important news source in Lower Manhattan, which is why I wanted to clarify a few points regarding your article about Community Board 1’s World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee meeting (news article, Dec. 1 –Dec. 8, “C.B. 1 rules out 1 memorial design”).

First, it is inaccurate to conclude that I have “strong criticisms” for Daniel Libeskind’s site plan. I do not. In fact, as a member of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., I voted in favor of the plan. I also do not have “strong criticisms” for the memorial designs. I do have concerns over the vast size of the designated memorial space and I question whether it detracts from the overall impact of a meaningful memorial.

Second, while I had summarized most of the board’s overall dissatisfaction with the designs, including my own, I also went on to discuss other elements of the selections that I found very appealing.

Lastly, I would like to make a very important distinction between the design selections and the design process. Like the governor, I have tremendous faith in the selection process, which I believe will ultimately result in a sensitive and appropriate memorial that we will all be proud of.
Madelyn Wils
Chairperson of Community Board 1

A better submission

To The Editor: 
After reading your very interesting article, last week, on the status of the World Trade Center Memorial jury’s selections, I was stunned at some of the revealing comments (news article, Dec. 2 –8, “C.B. 1 rules out 1 memorial design”).  You quoted Madelyn Wils as saying the selections were uninspirational and remarked that Albert Capsouto “was disappointed that the jury seemed to ignore the call to include authentic W.T.C. elements in the memorial such as the towers’ remnants and The Sphere sculpture.”

My friend, Joseph Courter of Absecon, N.J., submitted plan# 409931.  Here is a portion of the description of his entry in his own words:

FREEDOM BELL — “The heart and soul of the design is the Freedom Bell.  This bell is cast in part from metals recovered from the Twin Towers, Pentagon and the four airplanes.  It represents a resurrection and symbol of our enduring strength as a nation founded on liberty and freedom for all.  Visitors will be able to see and touch the Freedom Bell and thus have a symbolic connection with the events of 9-11.”  The bell would be rung each year on 9-11.

BELL TOWER — “The tall and graceful open steel tower that houses the Freedom Bell is the primary focal element.  It is designed to echo and pay tribute to Minori Yamasaki’s exterior design of the World Trade Center.  The Bell Tower is situated on a gradual upward sloping terrace, which is the reverse of the depression of each footprint.  The location of the Bell Tower is on the axis of each tower footprint and visible from the seating area at the center of each tower.”

Now, Mr. Courter has reconciled with the fact that this is just how life is, i.e., not necessarily fair.  I agree.  We all know most decisions are politically motivated, and most likely, nothing can be done at this point (I’m acting alone, in other words!).  I just needed to respond to your comprehensive report, figuring if anyone could challenge the jury’s decision with proof that it was not well thought out, it would be a journalist. 
Tula Christopoulos

Memorial meeting

To The Editor:
After reading your article on the Community Board 1 memorial design meeting in the December 2-8th edition, I want to comment on how the meeting was run and what was said. I found your piece to be more focused on Madelyn Wils and not on the process and outcome of the meeting. As a board member for almost four years, I am constantly impressed with the integrity, caliber, commitment and passion of every member of this board. And so your article detracts form the work of this committee, the leadership of our chair since Sept. 11 and the hard issues that the full board wrestles with.

After watching the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. video, the committee chair opened the meeting to comments. But unlike other meetings, we actually started with one member and then went from person to person to give everyone an opportunity to express their views and then move on to non board members. Richard Kennedy, the committee chair, and Madelyn Wils facilitated this meeting in a way to get everyone’s thoughts and input on this sensitive and important issue. In fact, they summarized what was said so that we could capture ideas and test the reactions.  Every view was heard and no judgments made. Everyone has reactions to the eight proposals, some are loved, some are hated and some want components from multiple entrants combined. In the end, it is the jury that must decide and our committee praised the process of having a jury and allowing them to make decisions without lobbying or political pressure. Richard and Madelyn strongly defended this process and ran the meeting so as to give the L.M.D.C. and the jury this community’s preferences and reactions to the proposals. For most of us, no one proposal stood as a singular choice. We found positive elements in all of them but we also questioned how we would interact with the memorial, whether or not these interpretations are timeless, do they use the space allotted wisely and do they adequately memorialize those who perished and sacrificed and does it serve as a memorial to the horrific event itself and how this society deals with it.

Finally, there have been many iterations of land use, architecture, traffic flows, West St. and every other facet of the World Trade Center site and I suspect there will be several more. We all know that change is constant but, as a community board, we also understand that this complex process must be flexible and we work hard to be able to progress with every step we take. There are powerful emotional issues at play and even two years later we may need more time and perspective. But this committee and the full board have never shrunk from the challenges and your article does not reflect the fine work and leadership at that meeting.

No community board has even faced anything like Sept. 11th in their neighborhood and yet Community Board 1, Madelyn Wils, every committee chair and every board member should be acknowledged for their volunteerism and love of Lower Manhattan.  
Anthony Notaro
Chairperson, Battery Park City Committee of C.B. 1

Memorial thoughts

To The Editor:
As residents of Lower Manhattan – and as two of the many New Yorkers who will be physically and emotionally affected by the World Trade Center memorial – we ask that the jurors consider the following.

A simple stringlist of names, as offered in all eight of the designs, we feel, does little justice to the lives and memories of those murdered. We were are especially disturbed by the notion of an alphabetized list, which implying orders and prioritizes the victims in a way that has nothing to do with how and why they died.when in fact each individual’s life was taken away in chaos and disorder. We feel it is critical that the story of each individual’s life be told as richly as possible either at the memorial or in the 9/11 museum elsewherenearby.

Very few memorials have to recognize the loss both of individuals and of a structurethe physical space they inhabited. Had so many deaths occurred in a faceless office tower without iconic value, this competition might be quite different.

We look for inspiration to the gutted temple in Hiroshima, and the shell of Coventry Cathedral.

By including remnants of the World Trade Center, we experience a physical relationship to the loss. authentic The remains of the past, terribly changed, allow the visitor to reflect on the losses, their cause, and the altered present. Aside from a brief view of slurry wall and the shapes of the footprints, no memorial design has anything left of the World Trade Center complex.

We ask that the surviving fragment of World Trade Center facade be included in the memorial. Many observers allude to Dresden in describing their memories of it. The fragment is as authentic as the slurry wall, and perhaps more visceral. And we ask that Fritz Koenig’s damaged “Sphere” be relocated to the footprint as well.

We generally support Daniel Libeskind’s site plan for redevelopment. But the models at the Winter Garden clarified one point: Whatever is built in and around the Twin Tower footprints they must keep them open to the sky. Building a new structure directly above them dishonors the integrity of the site. We ask that the Liebeskind plan be modified to keep all structures clear of the footprints.

It became clear only in the workshops what many of us had felt inarticulately: Radical differences between the treatments of the North and South Tower footprints also seem inappropriate.

The Twin Towers were visually identical (within a 6-foot height difference). While the North Tower had an antenna, the structure it sat on was a twin.s Leaving one footprint a void while building a structure in the other seems wrong, a violation, disrespectful.

The most provocative question in the Imagine NY workshops was the final discussion topic: How might this memorial be perceived and understood by future generations?

As one participant said, “What happens when the lights go out?”Will the memorial itself – without lights or electricity, without lamp fuel (an odd reminder of the politics related to 9/11), without video – honor the dead, respect the place, allow visitors the serenity and respect to have their own experience? And will it continue to do so long after we are all gone?

“The only thing that is timeless is simplicity,” said one participant..

We Of the eight finalist’ designs, we feel that are roughly in consensus that the finalist called “Reflecting Absence” comes closest to a timeless memorial of what – and who – was lost. the power and simplicity we seek. Many of the others feel contrived, gimmicky, overthought, overwrought.

We ask that the memorial be designed to outlast current technologies, that it be created to retain its power and impact through the centuries. If, for whatever reason, what is now New York City should be emptied of people thousands of years hence, we ask that the meaning of the memorial be clear – across cultures, across time – to those who rediscover it at a later date.
Andy Jacobson and John Voelcker
The writers recently met at a workshop organized by Imagine

 

 




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