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Memorial needs dignity more than skyscrapers



Published: Thu, July 25, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Suggested memorials to the victims of the Sept. 11 have run the gamut from the mundane to the mediocre. It's time for a different tack. The quiet beauty of the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. has made a far more powerful statement than any overwrought statuary or overblown edifice could have accomplished. The World Trade Center may have been in New York City, but its destruction was an American tragedy. The time has come for Americans across the nation to offer their ideas for a fitting memorial.

The biggest problem with the six plans submitted to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation -- which was created in the aftermath of Sept. 11 to help plan and coordinate the rebuilding and revitalization of Lower Manhattan -- is how unexceptionally ordinary they are.

While the LMDC states its commitment "to an inclusive process that takes into account the needs of the many people affected by this tragedy and the other constituencies that have an interest in the future of Lower Manhattan," the most important emphasis appears to be rebuilding commercial space as quickly as possible.

Despite calls for a "vibrant mixed-use community" the designs were also supposed to replace all 11 million square feet of office space and increase retail space by 600,000 square feet. Thus all of the six plans submitted to the agency involve tall office buildings -- some as high as 90 floors -- and expanded retail space. Apparently no one considered that skyscrapers might serve as a magnet to evildoers.

Listen to the nation

While it is clear that officials have done their best to "Listen to the City" as they describe the initiative to involve New York residents and businesspeople, a similarly bold stroke could be listening to the nation -- considering the numbers of people who rushed to volunteer in New York or who contributed funds or other donations to restore the faith of New Yorkers

Apparently, there is a recognition that more planning is needed before an appropriate memorial can be established. We would urge the LMDC to plan the memorial first and then invite designs for a site that would be an appropriate showcase for the memorial, rather than squeezing in a memorial after the buildings have been erected.




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