Living Memorials: A vlog: I

Living Memorials: A vlog
: I have recorded a new vlog about the plans for the 9.11 memorial — and the need to make it an interactive memorial where we can bring what we need to bring to it.

Watch the vlog here (click on “9.11 memorial”). A vlog note: I shot most of the photos myself and included those photos, with links, in the transcript, below:


Living memorials

: As New York begins to plan its memorial to September 11th, it would be wise to learn the limitations of memorials past.

First, memorials made of metal and stone do not change… but their surroundings do.

Seventy years ago, with the best of foresight, a memorial was built on this land only to find itself choked by highways, wires, toxic dumps, and neglect. It is now an inappropriate place for a memorial. It is an insult to the memory meant to be held here. It is worse than forgetting.

Second, memorials do not change… but we do.

Who is to say today that these people praised on plaques and statues are the ones who best belong at the heart of Manhattan? Who is to say that there is not someone we admire more — or that we still admire these people at all? Who is to say today what we will think about September 11th in 50 or 500 years?

Memorials are permanent. They cannot be edited as we change our minds, gain a new perspective, or find a new context for the person or event who is being remembered.

Unless you are a deposed dictator now relegated to scrap metal or an amusement park, once you are cast in bronze, you and your memory are frozen… forever.

And so how should we build our memorial to September 11th?

New York’s Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corporation — which is doing an admirable job planning the rebuilding of the city after its devastation — just released its at the World Trade Center, a process that starts this spring. Its mission statement “contrasts the darkest depths of humanity and the bright light of human compassion and bravery. Remember, respect, recognize and inspire are its essential guiding themes.”

These are good rules, but incomplete.

Look at the people who flock to the site of the attacks every day. Yes, they bring their cameras and souvenirs, but they also bring their own sorrow and fear and concern and pride. Any memorial should allow us to bring what we want to it.

That is why I so liked the Tribute in Lights last year: It was majestic and bigger than life and not made of stone or steel; it was just light and we could see in it what we chose to see.

Look at these people and note also their need to leave their own tributes at the site. The memorial to September 11th should be interactive. It should allow people to leave not only things but also their thoughts — their memories, words, prayers, tributes, and hopes and their changing perspective through the years. All of this can be recorded and preserved and shared digitally. The memorial will be all the richer for this. It will be the memorial we create.

Our memorial should change and grow with us. It should not — it must not — be cold and dead, for that is the best description of those blocks today. No, the best memorial to September 11th, the most appropriate memorial for our time and times to come, will be a living memorial.