A Resident's Hopes for the MemorialBy Tim Lannan
As the 9/11 memorial jury prepares to sort through design applications for the international memorial competition, I continue think about what I want the memorial to be. While I have no specific physical vision - I leave that to those with the creative ability to turn concepts into reality - I have been contemplating three questions: What are we memorializing? Who is the memorial for? What should the memorial mean for future generations? My answers to these questions are inevitably influenced by my own biases and experiences, which include witnessing the first plane hit the north tower and remaining at my home in Tribeca throughout the aftermath of 9/11.
What are we memorializing?
Who is the memorial for?
What should the memorial mean for future generations?
Those of us who lived below Canal Street and elected not to evacuate after 9/11 discovered a very special sense of community in the weeks immediately following the attacks. We gathered on street corners to hold vigils and sing old songs. Those who had electricity, or phones, or hot water opened their homes to those who did not. We entered into intimate conversations with those who, heretofore, were only nodding acquaintances. The experience of coming together as a community in the aftermath of this horrible tragedy rekindled my belief in the possibility of creating a better world: a world that has learned that violence only begets violence and hate begets hate.
My dream is that the memorial will convey the possibility of this better world and hold it up as an attainable idea. As the memorial mission statements says so well, "May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire and end to hatred, ignorance and intolerance."
In many ways, the World Trade Center was the center of lower Manhattan before 9/11. Now it is forever our physical and spiritual heart and one that, I believe, can and should be shared with the rest of the world. The memorial can be a place where people come to learn what it means to be part of a world community and gain personal resolve to make the world a better place.
Three criteria could serve as guidelines in creating such a memorial: it needs to be accessible; connected, and integrated.
Accessibility also entails enabling those who visit the memorial to get in touch with the emotions of the day and their own heart. And it should be possible for visitors to connect with the larger, spiritual meanings of 9/11 without the distractions of specific religious symbols or practices.
Even more important, however, is building connections that bridge and promote understanding of cultural, racial, and ethnic differences, which all to frequently lead to suspicion, hate, and violence. To do this, the memorial must provide connections to those who died by telling their stories - their deaths have meaning that must not be forgotten. The most important connection and ultimate indicator of success, however, will be creating the memory links that help future generations understand and make sense of this experience. The memorial needs to build connections to those yet to be born and help them have a direct connection with 9/11.
Ultimately, the memorial needs to recognize and reconcile the needs and concerns of everyone involved - those who live and work downtown, those who died on 9/11 and their families, those who come to visit and learn from this tragedy, and the entire global community. Because the World Trade Center site has acquired an important symbolic value to the entire world, the importance of what is done there cannot be overstated. My hope is that both the process and the end product channel our passions in ways that foster community in its true sense, globally and locally. The memorial should provide ways to incorporate the lessons of 9/11 as we discover new ways to live together.
Tim Lannan has lived and worked in Tribeca since 1994 and is an active member of several local organizations, including Manhattan Community Board 1 and Neighbors Against N.O.I.S.E.