TCS Daily


Memorial Lapse

By Val MacQueen - May 2, 2006 12:00 AM

So. They were even braver than we knew. And the chaos at the end was more hellish than our worst imaginings. And we grieve again for the heroes of United Flight 93.

Yet four years on, surrounding the memorial to those gallant men, and to the flight crew and other passengers onboard, there is still uncertainty about what their memorial stands for and whether it reflects the valor of their deeds.

The winning design comes from architects Paul and Milena Murdoch of Los Angeles and is called the Crescent of Embrace. Because there is a natural bowl in the landscape of the spot where Flight 93 finally, after the struggle, went down, the red maples that the architects envisage planting around it form a crescent, and herein lies the controversy. Almost immediately after the winning design was announced, the blogosphere erupted into volcanic outrage. The crescent is, of course, the symbol of the religion of the individuals who murdered those onboard and who sought to destroy America, and that it is a crescent moon, not a crescent of trees, was discounted by those who thought they had spotted a secret agenda.

According to the winning submission, there will also be a Tower of Voices, featuring 40 wind chimes -- one to represent each passenger and flight crew member onboard on that fateful day. The wind chimes exacerbated what hundreds of bloggers and some respected national columnists, among them Michelle Malkin and Mark Steyn, saw as a celebration of passivity and appeasement rather than the bravery and patriotism that had been manifested. Mark Steyn wrote,

"That sounds like a fabulous winning entry -- in a competition to create a note-perfect parody of effete multicultural responses to terrorism. Indeed, if anything, it's too perfect a parody: the 'embrace' is just the usual huggy-weepy reconciliatory boilerplate, but the 'crescent' transforms its generic cultural abasement into something truly spectacular."

Yet family members of those who died, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's reporter who was in Washington, DC for the unveiling of the winning design, were awed by it. Paula Reed Ward reported that a woman whose brother died onboard said, "It's powerful but understated. My breath is taken away."

A woman who was at the unveiling of the winning submission, whose daughter died in the hijack said, "The understatement speaks to the profoundness of what occurred here." Another woman, who lost her husband on Flight 93, said, "The void that's there speaks so loudly to the heroism of these 40 souls."

In addition to the huge crescent of trees and the Tower of Voices with wind chimes, there will be a low black, slanted plaza with niches for people to leave tributes. Many think that whole thing adds up to a distressingly politically correct piece of kumbayah instead of reflecting the sudden violence, drama and sacrifice of those who died. As Michelle Malkin wrote: "The phrase wasn't 'Let's meditate.' It was 'Let's roll'."

The consensus in the blogosphere at least seems to be that a simple granite slab in the lonely field chiseled with the words, "Let's roll!" followed by an engraved list of the names of the passengers and crew would be more in tune with the feelings of most Americans. Yet family members who have seen the renderings seem to feel it does their loved ones justice.

Architects, it must be said, more than any other profession save that of politician, tend to impose themselves and their own beliefs on their work, and many commentators sensed a soft leftwing Weltanschauung in the winning design that was not appropriate for a memorial to such courage. Architects Paul and Milena Murdoch say they threw themselves into the design and that the crescent with the trees was a natural response to the bowl in the landscape. They note that the memorial will continue to evolve because the maple trees will be planted when they are just 15 or 20 feet tall and will reach their full height in 40 or 50 years. Whether an evolving organic memorial is what people are looking is perhaps another question. Many want it in stone, for all time.

Perhaps the memorial will be impressive and moving when it is built, or perhaps Michelle Malkin, Mark Steyn and thousands of others are right. But it is moot. There was speculation on that day that the terrorists had intended to fly Flight 93 into the White House, but we know now the target was the American icon, the Capitol rotunda.

The rotunda's unharmed presence on Capitol Hill today, still speaking of power, continuity and national confidence, stars and stripes aloft and snapping in the breeze, is in itself the finest memorial to Todd Beamer and the others who so valiantly gave their lives to force the terrorists away from their nation's capital that terrible day.

The author is a TCS Contributing Writer.

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14 Comments

These are some suggestions to honor all the dead of September 11, 2001
1. BAN ISLAM AS A RELIGION AND CLASSIFY IT AS A HOSTILE, POLITICAL ORGANIZATION. MUSLIMS THAN NEED TO BE RERATRIATED TO THEIR HOMELANDS OR ORIGIN. SYRIA, LEBANON, IRAN, TURKEY, ETC. THE GOVERNMENT CAN TEMPORARILY USE ALL MEANS OF SHIPPING AND AIR TRANSPORT TO EXPEDITE THEIR EXITS.
2. MAKE ALL FUTURE POLITICAL LEADERS SIGN A LEGALLY BINDING CONTRACT TO STATE THEY WILL ALWAYS PROTECT AMERICA FROM ISLAM AND ITS FANATICS. THIS WOULD BE DONE BY ALWAYS PLACING SECURITY, PROTECTION, AND OTHER MEASURES ABOVE ANY POTENTIAL ISLAMIC MEASURES OF APPEASEMENT. WE WILL NOT HAVE OUR FOREIGN, ECONOMIC, OR CULTURAL TASTES TO ACCOMODATE ISLAMIC GOVERNMENTS. IF ANY LEADER BREAKS THIS AGREEMENT THEY ARE TO BE REMOVED FROM OFFICE BY THE COURTS.
3. SUE THE GOVERNMENT OF SAUDI ARABIA FOR BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN DAMAGES TO OUR ECONOMY-ROUGHLY 72 BILLION IS A RECENT ESTIMATE. 15 OF THE 19 MURDERERS WERE SAUDI NATIONALS SO TALK ABOUT GETTING CAUGHT RED-HANDED.
4. RENATIONALIZE ALL US ASSEST THAT ARE CURRENTLY OWNED BY SAUDI BUSINESSES AND HAVE IT AUCTIONED OFF TO AMERICAN OR CLOSE ALLIES OF THE USA.
These measures would be a good start and I am open to further suggestions. I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE THIS AS A NATIONAL PETITION BY EARLY NEXT YEAR.

United 93 Memorial
From what I've read about the proposed memorial, it's ok with me. I'm not particular to this, that, or the other specific design. I defer to those who are closest to the issue - the surviving family members. However, I think there is an even more fitting memorial. Because these 40 people were the first civilians to die in active combat on American soil defending the homeland since 1865, the Congress should make a specific exception and award each person on United 93 the Congressional Medal of Honor as if they had been soldiers in the military. Their collective action was certainly above and beyond - of this there is no question.

Heavyinter's : These are some suggestions to honor all the dead of September 11, 2001
"Interesting" ideas - certainly feeds the anger side and gets our juices up. Not likely to fly at all. Sounds simple - 1) Ban Islam, 2) Send the bill to the Saudis, 3) Confiscate all Islamic assets we need. Can't work, won't work. Stop dreaming - we gotta share this planet with Islam and Islam has to share it with the rest of us. I would agree, however, that the Islam issues must be confronted head on and not swept under the rug. Muslems need to help solve the problem. We need to work on ways to encourage this and not get 1 billion human beings so mad at us that we wind up with mutual anihilation.

You will not be asked to sign the petition.
People like you who surrender and not even try are the main problem. You must be British. Look what the muslims have done to that nation

You will not be asked to sign the petition.
Who's surrendering? To what? I don't disparage your sentiment - I've felt that way about it too - but I just don't think it's that simple. The size and nature of the problem - that is, the number of moslems on this planet and the absurdity of trying to "collect" from the arabs say that there's got to be a more workable solution. If I seriously thought your proposals held real water, I'd march to the same tune.

YOU dont hold water, but too much hot air you quitter!!
I already have 72 willing signees at my job so just sit back while we work and you snort. The muslims did not think they could bring down 2 megatowers, BUT DID SINCE THEY BELIEVED!!! Survivors are already suing Saudi families and have them tied up in court. Why do you have so little faith?

Anger Management
My, my, my Mr. (I assume it is "Mr") Heavyvinter is certainly angry, which I am too. But it hasn't driven me over the edge. Get a grip.

Haven't seen it
An interesting debate. "Let's Roll" at the memorial? I don' think so. It is a memorial to the dead, not not a launching pad for war. Does anyone remember the debate on the Vietnam memorial? One writer in the NY Times called it a "black gash of shame." Humm. It is lovely, quiet space to reflect on dead people who, whatever you metaphysics, are beyond revenge. Listen, I am a decorated Vietnam combat vet and in time of war, on a battlefield I was a part of the "kill 'em all and let God sort them out." I also think we should start trying and executing those in Guantanamo who who have been bad boys. But let's not let the memorial become a vehicle for your own personal (and in some cases idiotic) sentiments.

Am I the only MAN on this website??
Anger is good as it seems many Americans have already forgotten the dead of 2001 while I will never forget. "Get a grip" That is all you can say? When muslims come blasting a large chunk of your city you MAY get angry, but than it may be too late. I have a good grip that is why my petition will go national next year while you sip your lattes. Good day ladies.

Mr. 248 or is it Section 8?
You dont think its a launching pad for war? WRONG!! The war WAS LAUNCHED ON US AND IT WOULD BE A VERY FITTING STATEMENT FOR THE SITE. Dont go soft in your old age Mr. Vietnam. I noticed that is always a trend in old age with vets, but when you were young it was OK at that time wasnt it? I think it is always fitting to wage war with the proper methods, proper memorials, and proper responses. That memorial should always remind young and old,why we are fighting this war. America needs the attitude of the WW 2 generation, because what I see today is weak and that is why we are still fighting partisans 4 years later. We defeated 2 superpowers in 4 years so what does that say? The generation of today is nothing as from the good years of 1945 and that is why we are still dragging this out.

this memorial should remind everyone about what happened on 9/11. it shouldn't matter if it says this that or whatever. its a reminder of those who died and those who fought to try to save thousands of lives versus having the whole country distroyed by terrorists. not all muslims or foreigners are mean and hate americans. its only those who are predjustice against americans and others that are mean and cruel!!!!

@Heavyvinter.
--Please do not use ALL CAPS. This signals you are either yelling or are a teenager. I don't believe you are either.

1) You cannot ban Islam as a religion for a multitude of reasons. For one, it is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided in the religion clauses of the First Amendment. For two, if you ban the religion based on the fact that they committed violence then you must also ban pretty much every other religion in the US. At some point in time a person or group of people of every religion has committed violent acts (KKK, Nazis, Irish Republican Army, Aum Shinrikyo (Japanese), Hezbollah, Buddhist in Burma, Mountain Meadows Massacre, etc). Anyways, if you ban one religion based on some some number of extremist people committing violent acts then you must ban all.
2) You cannot make a government or political leader do something against their will. It's this concept of sovereignty. Basically each country watches out for itself and protects it's own interests. When one country tries to impose their will on another war usually breaks out. And don't bother mentioning going to war with the world to make them all democratic flag waving Americans. There are a lot more of them than us. The U.S is different than all (except maybe Australia and a couple random other islands) countries in the world. We only have two countries bordering us. We don't have to deal with other nations imposing themselves on us as much as Europe, Africa, the middle East, and Asia do. It is more difficult for us to remove our self from an American mindset and think in a global context.

3) While I can agree with this concept on a basic level, it will probably do more harm to the US then we will get. If we sue Saudi Arabia on the basis the terrorist came from there, then what will happen to our oil? Where will we get it from? The Saudi family owns the oil industry. If someone drastically lowers the price of oil the Saudis can lower it to pennies a barrel and squash them. Also, it opens up the option for other nations to sue us. The Japanese (search "Japanese internment camps 1940), Japanese again (Hiroshima and Nagasaki), the Philippines (Atrocities in Philippine-American War), Guatemala (STD experiments), etc). We could use the terrorist but since the various terrorist groups (in this specific case Bin Laden and his cronies), are generally not of a specific nation they respond to our formal judicial filings with a bombing. They tend to not want to enter the courtroom of their own free will.

4)I am going to ignore this one because I know you have your own mindset and not matter what data or logical reasoning I give you, you will still view the world how you wish.

So, to summarize, good luck with your petition. If we follow your recipe for world peace we will be alienated by (if not at war with) the world and will have very little to no oil for our nation to use (which means gas, food, textiles, and anything else that uses the products or bi-products of oil).

Qur'an says "A good action and a bad action are not the same. Repel the bad with something better and, if there is enmity between you and someone else, he will be like a bosom friend (Surat al-Fussilat: 34)". Basically respond to violence with goodness.

P.S: Don't bother calling me British (which I am not sure how that is an insult to begin with since genetically speaking most Americans are British on some level). Born and raised here.

Oh, and I am not even going to try and comment on all your follow up responses. Again with the CAPS? And why so angry? Have you ever met "Mr.Vietnam"? I haven't, although I have seen Capt. America (good movie and a funny, somewhat relevant interjection into the conversation).

For a very long time the majority of my family AND I have had the same attitude as Heavyvinter. On some levels I too am still there. It is the very same mindset as those that claim decendency of the Old Solemn South, and the stars and bars, long may it way! Yes I believe in the concept of an EYE for an EYE, and I know that the Islam faith believes the same,it has been seen and abhorred but it is fact. I have visited the OKC. Memorial, it is fitting and stirring, well done and altogether proper... Yes architects do, can, and always have projected their own images into a design, nothing new there. I applaud all of them throughout history for having the courage to enter, walk if you will into the storm of debate and controversy which seems to always occur over these deep, emotional issues. I admire the Vietnam memorial, I am in awe of the U.S. Marine Memorial, and will one day visit all of the 9/11 sites before I pass.
Our way, Americas way of remembering our fallen has always been to memorialize in stone shall we say, not any different than the French "Arch de Triumph", or the cemeterys of Normandy. All of these have been scrutinized and deplored during their creation and design, only to have been born of fire and eventually given birth with enduring hope and steeled desire to never have it happen again. But alas we are human, and we still struggle to be the best we can be in a world which today has become a much more diverse place. I refrain from using dark heavy wording and overly joyful texts, for fear it will offend someone, of course politically correct, yet this is what we are. America I feel has come full circle, and it is not looking bright. We do not hesitate to condone some levels of inappropriate action, but others we tolerate for various reasons, for the good of all? Humm, well one day in the not too distant future we will, we must, Stand Together or surely we shall all "Hang Together", and I am certain there are not enough power poles to accomplish that! Stand in the isle of FLIGHT 93 with the passengers, HERO'S in my mind on any level and try to understand how and why they accomplished what they did and try not to dismiss it, try not too! I sit here writing this with honest compelling tears knowing that someday I too might just have to make that kind of decision for my fellow man. GOD BLESS THEM AND AMERICA. The stolid American face I saw in the midst of 9/11 was exactly what the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto saw just after Pearl Harbor, and I quote " I fear we have awakened a sleeping Giant" and they did. And it was and it will be, the ire of the American Spirit burns deeply, and has always been kindled by acts of non-sensical aggression as it should be. I want to believe that the future will bear fact to this idea and we will prevail for another 200 years to a point where we will still honor our Hero's with stone and massive flat gashes covered in granite and song and prayer and love and support, America the great experiment, wow! Land of the Free, Home of the Bravest... Sleep well Flight 93.. Thankyou

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