Build the memorial. Just the memorial.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation is trying to dig itself out of the pit it made when it invited the International Freedom Center and Drawing Center into the memorial complex at Ground Zero.

Now LMDC chair John Whitehead has told the IFC that it must submit plans to be approved “by relatives of 9/11 victims, among others.”

So what he’s doing is putting the families in the position of censor when that position should not exist at all — in government, in the LMDC, among the familes — because the IFC should never have been included in the plans for the memorial.

If I were among the families, I would refuse the task and convey one simple wish:

Build the memorial. Just the memorial.

Nothing else should be included in memorial at that place. The mistake was to try to put anything else there that would, by its very nature and necessity, exercise a proper right to free speech and thus risk speech that would be as inappropriate as karoake at a funeral (or a country-western dance). Build the IFC — no one, including the families thinks it shouldn’t be built — but build it elsewhere. The Drawing Center has now withdrawn from the site because it could not make assurances that it would not offend someone. Now they can go somewhere else, where that is not an issue or expectation. The IFC should do the same.

But the IFC and Whitehead should not blame the families for this and the families should not shoulder that blame. That lies with Whitehead, Pataki, Bloomberg, and the IFC for thinking that this was a good idea in the first place.

: The Times also profiles family leader Debra Burlingame, the family member who first told us what was happening with the IFC. In it, she says:

“They’re trying to hijack the meaning of 9/11; we’re trying to rescue it. It’s not just a story of death and loss. It’s a love story of human decency triumphing over human depravity.” …

“We’re not saying boycott the memorial; we’re saying, fill it with the story of 9/11, or get it off the site,” she says.

Exactly.

: Here’s the NY Post’s report. And here is Debra’s Take Back the Memorial blog, announcing plans for a September rally. One of my earlier posts on this here.

: Also… It’s wrong to position this as just the families fighting. Thousands have signed the petition on the Take Back the Memorial site — I’m among them.

  • http://www.musiccherry.com Fenton

    I’ve disagreed with you on this in the past, but I see your position more clearly now. I’m inclined to agree with the “just the memorial” idea.

    If I had been killed and could magically make a wish about how I’d want the memorial, I’d just want a simple list of all the people who died etched into the side of the building’s foot. Nothing more. If even that.

    Heck, even just rebuilding the thing and getting back to regular life would have already been a wonderful memorial to me.

  • http://www.onehandedeconomist.com Timothy

    I still think they should’ve just put them back up, exactly the same. With a wall, like the Viet Nam memorial. If you’ve seen that, and especially if you’ve been there when they read the names on Veteran’s Day, it’s haunting, and I wasn’t even a hopeful glimmer during Viet Nam.