|What would the
Sentinels of Vigilance say about the new designs for the 16-acre World
Trade Center graveyard? Would they jump for joy or gag?
You be the judge.
21, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 465
(First Day Of Winter & Shortest Day Of The Year)
A Good Day To Visit A Graveyard
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
|GROUND ZERO, New York City, Dec. 21--The
shortest day of the year and the first day of winter. Both are
good reasons to visit a graveyard.
I like graveyards.
They are the true pages of history.
I often stop and read the tombstones of
old, mossy tombstones across the country whenever I travel.
Locked in the fading pores of granite and marble messages carved long,
long ago by chisels of the living in memorial to the dead, tombstones
speak with a veracity unequaled by any living person's tongue.
What last words do you want inscribed on
What epithet do you want trumpeted from a
hunk of stone so that a passerby like myself perhaps a hundred or more
years later might kneel by it and ponder who you were and what you
meant and what message you were leaving the children's children's
children of the world.
I come from a long line or
morticians. My father was one. His father was one.
They prepared the dead for final burial. They dug the hole.
They filled it. They placed the tombstone to signal the last
words, or lasting memories of those departed.
I never got to be a mortician.
My father abandoned me when I was a young child for a bottle of booze.
Rumor had it he got so drunk at his best friend's burial that during
the ceremony he was leading he fell into the open grave, drunk as a
skunk. That ended his leadership and career as head
of the Anderson Funeral Home in Hood River, Oregon.
He became a Greyhound bus driver, ferrying people up the tortuous
Columbia River Highway, long before it was carved into a ribbon of
concrete. Rumor had it he still sucked on the neck of a
booze bottle as he drove.
As a child, I have a few faint
memories of visiting my father's funeral home in Hood River. I have
flashes of an Easter Egg hunt on the lawn of the home sitting upon a
hill looking out to the Columbia River that carves a great watery gap
between Oregon and Washington. I have fainter visions of a dark
room and the smell of a pungent odor in the home's basement.
Ironically, the original Anderson Funeral Home is now a winery.
And even more ironic, the name Anderson Funeral Home still exists and
is a State Historical Site, relocated in another section of the town,
known for its apple orchards, wind surfing, and the gateway to Mount
Hood, a magnificent mountain spearing up out of the Cascade Range some
sixty miles east of Portland.
I have some genetic authority to
speak of graves and monuments that adorn them.
That's why I was eager last night, on
the eve of the shortest day of the year and the first day of winter,
to accept my wife's suggestion to visit the models of the new World
Trade Center monuments on display at the Winter Gardens in Lower
The Winter Gardens comprise a
majestic rebuilding of an icon lost during the September 11 Terrorist
attack. The building was crushed under millions of pounds of
debris when the Twin Towers collapsed, reducing to rubble anything in
its path. A year and a month later construction was
completed on restoring the Winter Gardens back to its glory.
Beautiful holiday lights dangle from the skylit dome like giant
electrical jellyfish swimming above, fragile tentacles whispering
above your head as you walk down polished Italian marble stairs curved
into a horseshoe that leads all to the center of the atrium where the
stars above add beauty to man-made magic.
Along both sides of the Winter
Gardens, encased in glass, stood seven different architects' visions
of what the 16-acre World Trade Center graveyard should look like.
Each presented a architectural "tombstone" to remind the world that
"the king is dead, long live the king."
In ancient times, when the
leader of the nation died, the citizens mourned that death in one
breath and in the other hailed their new leader. It
disallowed any gap in authority between one and the other, no room for
chaos, no quarter for anarchy.
It has been said at the instant
the first Terrorist plane smashed into the first Twin Tower, at
8:46a.m., September 11, 2001, architects ran to the pencil sharpener
and began sketching what would replace what had been lost. There
was no gap between what was and is.
The result of those sketches
now rest in kind of architectural embalming room in the Winter
Gardens. Seven designers are vying to reface the gravesite with
modern tombstones, giant buildings that in some cases spear up 1,764
feet that will become the "New World Trade Center."
My reaction to the display was
not unlike that of Anthony Maraglino who was quoted in the NY Post as
saying: "These designs are a disgrace...This isn't a 'Star Wars'
movie, and these buildings should not be made for tourist-attraction
That was my gut reaction to
what I saw. It reminded me of the biggest and grandest mausoleum
in the graveyard, the one that thundered above all others, demanding
But the vast majority of
designs all had a Disneyesque nature to them. One by United
Architects was viewed by one reader of the Post this way: "The
Untied guys did a bang-up job. Put a Phalanx missile system on
the top, and the Homeland Security Department in the tower, and run
One design had a monument to
the Twin Towers that came up out of the ground and then went back
down, and then up and down, a motorized morbid reminder--at least to
me--that everything comes and goes. I couldn't believe
someone would design such a monument or that it would be selected in
the final running to be displayed as a contender. It was
certainly the most garish of all commercial touristy designs, and the
most macabre. I kept seeing a plane hitting the monument and it
sinking into the ground, then rising up to have another plane hit it,
and then rising up again and again, like Sisyphus trying to push the
rock over the top of the mountain.
The ugliest of all, I thought, was
confirmed by a NY Post poll. It was a "Lego-like" semblance of
nine towers rising over the WTC site, cold and empty vertical and
horizontal lines tic-tac-toeing around the graveyard.
There were three adaptations by a
firm called THINK that resembled erector sets, spindly shards of metal
and glass that looked more like an alien complex for visitors from
outer space than a functional business center honoring a horrible
Some of the designs were careful to
promote how each floor had outside stairs to escape any future attack.
I had expected one or more of the designs to show parachute platforms
where executives could leap off the buildings.
I didn't go to the viewing of the
designs without my own prejudices for what should be honored at the
gravesite. Quite honestly, immediately after the World
Trade Center collapsed, I sat in the rubble and pounded out my vision
of the site's resurrection. I was one of those architects
who rushed to the pad of paper and began drawing as the buildings
crumbled, as the ash plumed, as the stench of death assaulted the
nostrils and made it hard to breathe without gagging.
Pounding my laptop furiously at Ground Zero
on September 11, 2001, I wrote about the vision I saw that day.
I saw the bodies of the Sentinels of Vigilance rising up out of the
ash, out of the horror of death and destruction.
I also saw the Beast of Terror. I saw his
fangs dripping with the blood of the innocent, and his mouth agape
eager to eat the children of the victims, and their children's
children's children. Amidst the wail of sirens and
cacophony of bloody horror that thousands were buried alive beneath
millions of tons of debris, I wrote about their resurrection, their
ascent into a Circle of Vigilance over Ground Zero.
I wrote about their unification as one body out
of many, a combination of a man and woman, back to back, each with a
Sword of Vigilance in one hand, each with a Shield of Vigilance in the
other. They were looking out at the horizon, searching for
the Beast of Terror, ready to take him on in a battle of Fear versus
Courage, Intimidation versus Conviction, Complacency versus Right
the Maypole of Vigilance
They wore wreaths of olive branches
on their heads, symbolizing their desire for peace, but wary of any
attempt to lull them into Complacency. Around them
was a ring of children, of all different sizes and shapes, from all
different cultures and beliefs. The children were dancing around
the Maypole of Vigilance, hand in hand, heads tossed back in glee and
joy, laughing, starry-eyed little bodies of innocence yet unafflicted
by the Fangs of the Beast of Terror.
It was to these children, to all the
children's children's children, that the Sentinels of Vigilance served
an eternal watch, scanning and patrolling the horizons for the sounds
of the Beast of Terror's belly slithering toward them.
I saw no such monument to the Sentinels of
Vigilance on display at the Winter Gardens last night. I felt no
kinship for the designs of ego-thumping presented, a kind of
intoxicant by the designers to let the world know that the idea behind
the new designs was not how memorial they were, but how garrulously
vagrant they were. They ignored entirely symbolizing the
Beast of Terror, or Sentinels of Vigilance, for there was not one sign
of a parent protecting a child to be seen or felt.
The Twin Towers were ultimately the mother and
father of architecture, a married couple who spawned a number of
children all named by numbers, Tower One, Tower Two, Tower Three, etc.
The buildings that were crushed into pulp were a family that had died
that day, a mother, a father, and their children.
Terrorism, we so often forget, starts at
It is bred in the living rooms of the
parents who ignore the thirst of their children to be taught love and
consideration, not only amongst themselves, but for all others,
especially for the children and the children's children's children.
Had that happened in the homes of the
Terrorists who hijacked the planes that smashed into the Twin Towers
and Pentagon and the ill-fated Flight 93 en route to the White House,
there would not have been a Nine Eleven.
Vigilance at Ground Zero Anniversary
I wanted the architecture to symbolize the
unity of the Parents of Vigilance, the Citizens of Vigilance, the
Loved Ones of Vigilance. I wanted there to be some recognition
of the duty and responsibility of society to honor the parents and
children of Terrorism's horror, and to emboss upon all who viewed the
structure that we have a legendary responsibility to protect our
families, not only in New York, but around the world.
Nothing at the Winter Gardens spoke to that
It was all about glitter.
When I visit graveyards, I search for the
tombstones that leave messages about the power of the family, messages
to the children of the future. It is those messages I
ponder the most, and those graves I kneel before in respect.
No matter what glitter is built on Ground Zero, it cannot
erase the fact Ground Zero is a graveyard, a giant hole that consumed
thousands of mothers and fathers, grandparents, uncles, aunts,
cousins, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.
These Sentinels of Vigilance do not approve
of what was designed.
They might have, however, if one of the
designers at the top of the most ornate of all structures, had topped
it off with a man and woman looking out into the distance--searching
for the Beast of Terror.
In Charge Of Your Child's Mind?
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