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.


Saturday--December 21, 2002óGround Zero Plus 465
(First Day Of Winter & Shortest Day Of The Year)
A Good Day To Visit A Graveyard
Cliff McKenzie
   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 your tombstone?

     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 Manhattan.
       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 purposes!!!"
         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 attention.
         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 with it."  

         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 tragedy.  
        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.

Beast of Terror

      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 Actions.

Dancing around 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 home.
       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.

Graveside 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 issue.
       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.

See the 'glitter' below

Dec. 20--Who's In Charge Of Your Child's Mind?

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