NYC Memorials, and Other Matters

September 4, 2013

A beautiful post-summer day in NYC, and I went for a walk during lunch.   Of course, I spent time in the cemetery of Trinity Church, where they’ve taken to putting up small informative signs for tourists, including one in front of the gravestone shown above.  It says Charlotte Temple on it, which is the name of a novel that was wildly popular in late 18th century America, but there is some doubt as to why it’s there.  (Reminds me of a recent article about the pseudo-grave of Nick Beef, next to Lee Harvey Oswald’s final place of rest.)

Image

A NYTimes article from several years ago says that a researcher got the church to lift the slab to see what’s under it, but there is no burial vault, however, that doesn’t mean that no one is buried there.  The little sign says that the inscription may have been carved by a bored stoneworker during construction work on the church.  I like that explanation – the artistically inclined skilled artisan class, and all that.

Further on my walk, I encountered a very odd place for NYC:  the sign in the window says as much – “It’s free.  We know that’s hard to believe in NYC!” The place is a nice modern storefront called Charlotte’s Place, and it has tables, computers, books, and spaces for sitting, talking, meeting, and other sociable activities. It is completely free, and is maintained as a resource for the community, by Trinity Church it seems.  An anonymous grave which might house no one and a free space for anyone, all from Charlotte.

Continuing, I walked past the souvenir shop for the 9/11 Memorial: I have visited the memorial site and walked around, but never been in the store.

In an interview a few years after the destruction of the WTC, Phillip Roth was quoted on the “kitchification” of the event and its victims.  I have commented before on what I feel is a rather ghoulish or morbid preoccupation with this horrible event, so I have not much to say other than that I found the store depressing and faintly nauseating, and, as that phrase I hate goes, “It is what it is…”  Seems appropriate for once.

At least while I was there I noticed this gem of a façade – sorry for the bad pic, but I didn’t have my camera, and only real estate firms had images online – which is at 125 Liberty Street.

Meanwhile, nearby, the slow, laborious work on Calatrava’s Faberge egg of a transit hub continues…  As the article correctly remarks:

It is important to note how the projects within the World Trade Center are unique in the sense that they were, and continue to be, fueled by emotions associated with the 9/11 attacks.


9/11

September 10, 2011

I am very happy that the tenth anniversary of our humiliating victimization by a band of fanatical terrorists falls on a Sunday.  That means I don’t have to fight the crowds of visitors and dignitaries, security personnel, and media hordes to get to my cubicle where I toil for my salary. Other than that, the only observation I have is that the ‘remembrance’ often strikes me as morbid and a bit ghoulish.  Certainly, there are individuals who have tremendous losses to mourn, and I wish them the best, but that’s an individual drama and anguish.  I’m not sure that the articles, TV comments, speechifying and whatnot support and nurture that.

How admirably short and direct was Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  Perhaps we will be lucky, and receive the same.


Out of Context

April 12, 2011

For a dissenting view on the inscription planned for the 9/11 memorial [my post] see this letter to the NYTimes. 

Great sentences can transcend the storylines from which they come.

Is ‘transcendence‘ dependent on ignorance?  Context used to be part of what we like to call ‘culture.’  And what makes the sentence,

No day shall erase you from the memory of time, a great one?  Partly it’s  historical resonance, which entails memory, and context… Otherwise, whence comes the loftiness of the sentiment..?

I wonder if the plan is to cite the author of the sentence in the inscription?


War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Victim is Hero

April 10, 2011

Make a note in the George Orwell, 1984 collection of historical amnesiac incidents…or is it?

The NYTimes had an article a few days ago about the quotation that is to be prominently inscribed in stone at the 9/11 memorial taking shape below my office window:  “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”  As the writer showed, the text is grotesquely inappropriate, being a line taken out of context that celebrates the memory of two soldiers brutally killed in an ambush.  The Aeneid was not a pastoral!  The line sounds lofty and noble, but do we want to memorialize the deaths of thousands of innocent civilian victims of an atrocity with a line celebrating ancient warrior values? The author of the OpEd piece thinks it is a bit of intellectual laziness, typical of the Internet age, when people snatch quotations off of websites without doing the reading necessary to understand them fully.  Well, nobody reads the classics anymore, so who cares?

As I wrote in my probably-never-to-be-published letter to the Times (but you loyal readers, can get the scoop here!) I suspect something else may be at work here.  We want to remember the victims, but not as victims. That’s too painful:  it reminds us of how unprepared we were, and how vulnerable we can be.  Better to remember them as the first casualties in a heroic war against terror.

This fits with the current overuse of the word “hero” in our popular culture.  Heroes are supposed to be people who choose to face death and danger, but now everyone who dies is a hero.   Rush into a burning building and die trying to save a child – you are a hero.  Killed by a falling timber as you rush in a panic out of a burning building, you’re a hero too!  People terrified by death who just couldn’t escape:  they don’t exist.  We all know what we are doing, and we are all heroes.  So nobody is a hero in the end…


Folly at NYC Ground Zero

September 18, 2010

In 18th century landscape architecture, a folly is a whimsical, usually ornamental building often in a rather outlandish style set in a garden.  The British were particularly fond of them.

In an earlier post, I remarked on a different sort of folly related to the rebuilding of the WTC site.  Today, the business columnist in the NYTimes, Joe Nocera, has an excellent analysis of the absurdity underlying the Freedom Tower now rising at the site.  All this in a town and country that prides itself on hard-headed economic analysis in the context of the free market.   I wonder how the local Tea Party members will feel if they have to pay more to cross the bridges in order to foot the bill for this folly.

A view of the behemoth rising outside my office window:


Trophy Mosque

August 31, 2010

At lunch, yesterday, I wandered by this building in downtown Manhattan.  There was a cluster of people in front, including a couple holding signs defending the rights of American citizens to build a mosque and community center if they want to.  I asked why they were protesting there and was told that this was the building where the mosque was to be built.  Clueless to time and space as usual, I had not even noticed what street I was on.

A stocky white woman was ranting to a lithe black man with a video camera about how this project is an offensive “trophy mosque.”   She compared it to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the oldest Islamic building in the world, which she said was built as a commemoration of Moslem conquests in that region.  Wikipedia makes no mention of this, saying it was built as a shrine for pilgrims to the site that is holy to Christians, Moslems, and Jews, and was not even planned as a place of regular worship.

It’s hard to imagine the local community boards and zoning reviews allowing a structure as eye-catching as the golden dome to be built on Park Place in Manhattan, but I guess that’s what people in the No-Mosque crowd fear.  The ranting lady conveyed with winks, nods, sarcasm and other broad rhetorical devices her absolute dismissal of the notion that the backers of the project are anything but evil agents of a foreign power – nation? religion? terrorist group?  Obviously they are not what they pretend to be – Americans who want to build a cultural center near where many of them work and live. 

It wasn’t too long ago that Jews were subject to this same sort of vile bigotry in America.  Being Jews, they must be loyal to a foreign entity.  Before the state of Israel existed, it was supposed to be some sort of international cabal of cannibals and bankers.  And Catholics too were treated the same way.  After all, they are not true Americans since their allegiance is actually to the pope.  JFK was rumored to be under the pontiff’s thumb.  A fifth-column of popery in DC!


Sacred ground

August 14, 2010

I was glad to hear the arguments of Obama and Bloomberg regarding the mosque and community center planned for downtown NYC.  At first, I thought it was a bad idea although I didn’t think it should be stopped in any way.  I thought it was bad because I thought it was part of the WTC redevelopment plan, and I couldn’t understand why anyone would be so silly as to include an Islamic community center as part of the memorial. 

Well, I was totally wrong!  It has nothing to do with the memorial.  It’s an independent organization that has existed for years, as have several mosques already in the downtown area, and they were looking to expand and provide more services.  Full steam ahead, I say.  The opponents appear to be emotional bigots – it’s really that simple.  Muslim = terrorism, that’s the equation.

One letter in the NYTimes today says that it’s stupid to talk of  “abstract principles” like religious freedom in this case.  People are “scarred” by the events of 9/11.  I guess we should just burn the US Constitution then.  Who needs the Bill of Rights?

Another writer said that it’s as if the Germans wanted to build a cultural center across the street from the Auschwitz death camp.  Of course, Auschwitz isn’t located in the densely built downtown district of a major city – it’s pretty much out in the country, and to build a center there would make no sense…except as a provocation. 

Lots of people talk about the horror, the insult, the indignity of a Muslim house of worship in such “close proximity” to the sacred earth of the WTC site.  Meanwhile, the area is thronged with gawking tourists, vendors peddling memorabilia, the most famous discount department store in the world, Century 21, does a brisk business right across the street!!  Can’t they move their emporium somewhere else?  Then we can start banging on Brooks Brothers’ doors.  Let’s turn the whole area into a somber and quiet memorial to that day of horror…oops, forgot about the hi-rise office towers currently going up on the site…


BLAST!

January 26, 2010

Photos from by office cubicle – please forgive the windowpane glare.  The building on the left was damaged 0n 9/11, and has been coming down in fits and starts ever since.  The one on the right is the new Freedom Tower, slowly rising to its planned 1776 feet.

Down in front of them is the big pit (below left) where four buildings were planned:  on the left, not in sight, is one rising quickly, pumped up by money from Larry Silverstein, the lucky guy who won the big bid for the lease to the entire WTC site, a few weeks before 9/11.  (He tried to collect double from his insurers, claiming two planes, two towers, two attacks, two payouts! )  Next to this site is a big mud hole where his second tower is supposed to go, but he’s having money problems these days, what with his lawsuit against the insurers being not too successful, and the general state of the real estate market in NYC

A third site of his, also a languishing mud pit, is on the far right of the big pit.  In between is the site of the future PATH terminal, designed by Santiago Calatrav (above right).  It’s under construction now, even as the terminal, such as it is, continues in use by people like me.  When it’s finished, my commute will be shorter by ten minutes or more, just by eliminating the crowds and detours around construction work.

I thought the contractors had gotten rid of all the bedrock in the way, but some is still sticking up too high out of the earth.  The pictures below show a portion of it, drilled with a grid of holes that are, I think, where the dynamite charges are placed.  In the bottom right of the picture on the left below, you can see the heavy steel woven mats that are placed over the charge area to prevent rocks from flying all over the place.

The video below captures the last horn sounded before the blast goes off.  You can see the man at the top of the image wave to indicate it’s time to throw the switch.  Many times, when the switch is thrown, the wires to the charge area flash white like lightning before the sound of the blast is heard, but in this case, they didn’t, I don’t know why.

This is how it looks from floor 31.


He kept us safe…

January 18, 2009

bushbullhorn

In many letters to editors, I have heard this sentiment expressed in defense of GWB’s miserable record as president:  “No terrorists have attacked us…he kept us safe.”  Well, 9/11 did occur when he was president.  Here is a small gallery of momentos of our safety with W.

Our fearless leader keeps cool, and keeps reading “My Pet Goat” as the attack plays out.  What decisiveness!

safe1    bushreadingthepetgoat

Our great leader was brilliant during the phony energy crisis manufactured by Enron (remember them?) that nearly bankrupted California.

safe2

Once again, Numero Uno was on the ball when Katrina hit, and his valiant lieutenant, Brownie, did a “helluva job.”  Oh well, it was an act of God…

katrina-neworleanssuperdomesat3sept-moretrashstillwaiting2bevacd-reuters-shannonstapleton       _42130348_domebaby_getty416b

WMD?  WMD?  Did somebody say something about weapons of mass destruction..?  Well, he kept us all safe, right?

safe3

Well, Bush isn’t the only great leader and visionary we had to guide us these last years.  Now we see the results.  I bet he  and his friends kept their money really safe!

safe4


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