2005-09-23 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach


While the Department of Transportation is at its task of redesigning the Beach 116 Street shopping street, it ought to think about renaming the street “Memorial Row.”

Whoops! Forgot, not allowed to use the word “memorial” in connection with our new paean to those who died in the terrorist attack on the World trade center more than four years ago. Oh, well. A rose by any other name.

The name is apt, however, with “Tribute Park” soon to cut the ribbon at the north end of the street and the Flight 587 Memorial soon to be announced for the south end of the street.

By the way, how come the AA 587 whatever can be called a memorial by the city while the 9/11 whatever must never be called a memorial? Why must it be called a “tribute” instead?

Never mind. It doesn’t matter. A rose by any other name.

I really like the new Tribute Park design. I was there last week for the September 11 flag raising ceremony as sunset on Sunday and it was very touching. The park is very soothing, very... something. My problem with the park it that it does not represent the event it is meant to memorialize (can I used that word or do I have to use tributize?).

Michelle Malkin, who apparently works for the National Park Service in one place or another because her email address is a government one, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Post last week that more or less sums up my opinion as well.

“She was actually writing about the memorials at Shanksville, Pennsylvania and Ground Zero, but she could have been talking about Rockaway, if she knew that Rockaway even existed.

“I am not an architect, but here is my architectural philosophy: War memorials should memorialize war. If you want peace and understanding and healing and good will toward all, go build Kabbalah centers,” she writes. “Please, for the sake of those who’ve sacrificed, let’s put the design of war memorials in the hands of creative people committed to creating monuments of courage over capitulation.

I agree. From the beginning, I have argued that the memorial (there, I did it again) to those Rockaway residents who died in the cowardly attack on the World Trade Center should remind people of what happened.

No restful benches. No beautiful vistas. No beautiful lights and dancing waters. No beautiful plantings.

I want twisted metal. I want a piece of twisted steel from the South Tower as a centerpiece. I want the flattened Broad Channel Volunteer ambulance in one corner. I want bloody papers, tattered clothing, photographs of people jumping from the buildings. I want recordings of relatives and locals who lived through the ordeal. I want my grandchildren to know that the terrorist attack was horrendous, an insult to every American. I want the modern-day version of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

I’ll never see it, however, because the powers-that-be are too politically correct. They continually want everybody to love everybody else. I don’t want to love the people who destroyed the World Trade Center, who destroyed a large portion of the Pentagon, who forced a group of true American heroes to die in order to save the White House or some other landmark from a similar fate. I want them destroyed. I want my grandchildren to walk into that monument and know why it was put there in the first place. I don’t want them to think of it as just another park in the inventory of all the other city parks.

Without that history, the names are meaningless, except to their relatives.

“A proper war memorial stirs to anger and action,” Malkin writes. “The last words of Todd Beamer [on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania] were ‘let’s roll,’ not ‘let’s meditate.”

The public memorial to those who died on Flight 93 is now marred in controversy much like that of the Ground Zero memorial.

The design chosen by a committee is called the “Crescent of Embrace.” There is concern that the crescent is too closely tied to the Muslim religion to be used as a symbol for the death of Americans who were killed by Muslim fanatics.

Some design contest jury members raised the concern that the memorial seemed to be honoring the Muslim hijackers who took over the plane rather than the Americans who died trying to keep them from diving the plane in the White House or the Capitol. Those who complained were reportedly told to mind their own business by the politicians who were driving the memoial because the public money wnated it that way.

There will be a tall tower made of wind chimes at the site. They will represent “healing and contemplation.”

Sounds like those who planned the Rockaway memorial (why do I keep using that word). I don’t want healing and contemplation.

I want people to walk through the attack’s version of the railroad car that carried Jews to Auschwitz. I want them to walk through the hallway where thousands of shoes sit in tableau, as if waiting to be reclaimed by their owners in some giant kid’s party. I want them to walk through a building that holds the pictures of all of the 70 Rockaway people who died. I want visitors to read their biographies, see pictures of their children, their wives and husbands.

I want visitors to see the face of evil and know who that evil is.

I understand that it is far too late for all of that.

My grandchildren will go to the park and sit on a bench, looking out over where the World Trade Center once stood and not br provided with an understanding of why the park is there.

That is too bad, both for them and for us.

We diminish ourselves by not allowing our anger to show, by not showing the next generation what the attack was all about and who perpetrated it on America.

I also understand that I am in a minority. Most people want healing and contemplation. They would rather forget.

My motto, however, is “Never Forget!” That is what history is all about.

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The biggest question here is why one cannot call a memorial, a memorial?


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