>One more Sept. 11th-related piece of commentary and then I’ll stop obsessing. The more I think about that article I read in the New York Times today about the vast sums of money that have been invested in the process of rebuilding the WTC site and the lack of anything substantive resulting from it due to bureaucratic stupidity, selfishness, and egocentric politics, the more it ires me. On my way home from my first magazine writing class (how to pitch articles) this evening, the thought about the cost of the proposed memorial alone was enough to make me want to slap someone.
According to the article and other recent press, Mayor Bloomberg finally came to his senses and shut the sky-high dreams down by putting a $500 million cost cap on the site. Of course, this was only after the price tag reached one fucking billion dollars. Yes, a BILLION bucks to create a memorial. Are these people insane?
I noticed that many of the people who believe that price is no object for the memorial to their brave departed son/daughter/wife/husband/sister’s best friend’s uncle’s neighbor do not actually live in New York City. Thus having a random 16 acre site that generates no income for the municipality is not their problem. Too bad for those of us who actually live here and have real needs, like child care, health care, pensions, rent assistance, etc., etc. that require some regular stream of revenue to meet. Even worse for those of us who actually work downtown and would like to see some life brought back to the area. Dear God – why should we have access to a lively community when their loved one is dead? What on earth is wrong with me?
Another issue that seems to be conveniently ignored is just who the fuck is paying for this thing. I am happy to help pay for a reasonable memorial. The World War II memorial, which I just saw this summer on the Mall in DC, is gorgeous, elegant, and an important shrine to the 16 million Americans who served in the armed forces and 400,000 who died fighting tyranny in World War II. According to the National WWII Memorial homepage:
The National World War II Memorial was funded almost entirely by private contributions, as specified in Public Law 103-32. The campaign received more than $197 million in cash and pledges. Support came from hundreds of thousands of individual Americans, hundreds of corporations and foundations, veterans groups, dozens of civic, fraternal and professional organizations, states and one territory, and students in 1,200 schools across the country.
Donated and pledged funds were used to cover the total project costs of approximately $182 million. These costs include site selection and design, construction and sculpture, a National Park Service maintenance fee required by the Commemorative Works Act, groundbreaking and dedication ceremonies, fund raising, and the 11-year administrative costs of the project from its inception in 1993 through completion in 2004.
So it seems that we can spend $182 million to get a great, thought-provoking memorial to 16 million people, but we need to spend $1 billion – a huge chunk coming from taxpayers -to memorialize less than 3,000? I don’t think so.
Should there be a memorial? Absolutely. How could there not be? Something horrendous and traumatizing and life-altering happened at the World Trade Center. An appropriate memorial that puts the events into context and helps us remember those who lost their lives by merely going to work one day is essential. Is an elaborate shrine to a specific person’s dead loved one the best way to convey the enormity and gravity of the events? Not so much. I would rather see my money go to help the living continue to live (see: immense needs of the citizens of NYC, above) than to build a tomb to the dead.
Again, I am sorry to anyone who lost someone dear to them that day. I know that I would be crazy with grief and very possibly as demanding if I were unlucky enough to be in your shoes. Sept. 11 is a big event and it means a lot of things to a lot of people, but we need to stop holding the needs of the living hostage in order to over-serve the dead.