Subscribe to the IHARE Blog

Ground Zero: Cosmic Center for the 21st Century

My quest to come to grips with the legacy of 9/11 in this series of posts draws to a close with this one. So far I have been examining the ways in which we remember those of who have died, the different circumstances in which people do die, and the changing ways through which the legacy of those who have fallen in battle have been remembered and forgotten.

I have been reminded of the loss of memory, or at least its diminishment over time through some recent events. First there have been a series of posts about America’s first 9/11, the Battle of Plattsburgh during the War of 1812. For the British, it is not a war they forgot since it never was one they remembered. For America, especially New York, it shows how easily deaths can be forgotten and even victories can vanish.

The past can be resurrected, too. A reconstructed statue/memorial to those who died in World War I has been erected in Brooklyn. The borough in which some now struggle to preserve to the memory of the Battle of Brooklyn at the birth of the country now recalls the “ethnics” of Bedford Stuyvesant who gave their lives in the war to end all wars. The battle for controlling the legacy of that war continues. At the battle of Gallipoli where over 100,000 died, what once launched the birth of the secular state of Turkey has become a triumph by Islamists over infidels. Times change and so do the memories of the past.

So how should 9/11 be remembered on its 13th anniversary? Daniel Mendelsohn, writing in the New York Times Review of Books, suggests: “What has been strikingly absent — perhaps because it’s precisely what takes a longer time to apprehend — is a grander historical vision of the event: why it happened, what its implications are beyond the local and personal or, indeed, national.”

Mendelsohn reveals that on 9/11, he was driving on the West Side Highway along the Hudson River en route to teaching his Greek tragedy class. He mentions one of Western canon’s earliest literary reactions to national catastrophe, “Persians” by Aeschylus. The play was first performed eight years after the devastating Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BCE, best known for the Battle of Thermopylae.

Lamentations for destroyed cities actually far predate coming to grips with that invasion. Already in the third millennium BCE, Mesopotamians lamented the fall of Ur, the city of biblical Abraham, and the collapse of the Third Dynasty of Ur. I have introduced the concept of the high place at the cosmic center in previous posts with the awareness of the destruction of cities with ziggurats, the ancient Mesopotamian skyscrapers in mind. But the destructions of high places at the cosmic center which have generated the most attention are the two of the temples in Jerusalem, first in 586 BCE by the Chaldeans of Babylon, and in 70 CE by Rome. Biblical scholar David Carr, of Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan, has pursued the topic of “trauma” and how the ancient Judaeans dealt with what had been unimaginable. A building had stood for roughly 350 years and then it was no more. Even by ancient standards, that is a long time for one building to be in continual use..and then it vanished. How did people cope with such a devastating loss that rendered their understanding of the world suspect?

Another biblical scholar, Jacob Wright, Emory University, has contributed to this discussion with two articles (which he sent to me):

“War Commemoration and in the Interpretation of Judges 5:15b-17″ [the Song of Deborah]
“Deborah’s War Memorial: The Composition of Judges 4-5 and the Politics of War Commemoration.”

Readers may note that Emory University is located in Atlanta, the site of the most devastating and thorough destruction of a city on American soil by other Americans. In addition to the impact it had it in its present, it was repeated in the American culture with the release of Gone with the Wind, still the number 1 movie by inflation-adjusted revenue after all these years and soon to be re-released on its 75th anniversary. Even more important is that everyone in America saw the burning of Atlanta in the film when it originally was released. The trauma from decades earlier was made visible in spectacular color just as everyone watched the TV broadcasts in living color of the collapse of the World Trade Towers. Here in New York, we may not recognize or appreciate the trauma which occurred in the Confederacy when a city burned because after all, our side won and they deserved it based on our values. That approach may not work well if you are teaching in Atlanta.

In the second article, Wright cited Baruch Halpern, a third biblical scholar, who rewrote the Song of Deborah by replacing the name of the tribes of Israel with the American states;

Out of New York – their root is in Albany;
After you Rhode Island, among your contingents;
Out of Massachusetts, statesmen came down,
And from Pennsylvania, whose who wield the writer’s pen.

The purpose of these listings was to demonstrate unity, participation, and a shared memory, here in victory but what also could be true of a defeat or trauma as in the phrase, “we are all in this together.” Many Americans have the shared experienced of having witnessed the trauma of the collapse of the World Trade Centers. Indeed, one may gauge the depth of the trauma based on degrees of separation from Ground Zero: were you there? did you see it in person? do you know people who died there or who were there? Do you see, smell, hear, touch, or taste its aftermath from the burning debris or fleeing people? Did you see it on TV?

That number of people who shared in the trauma will decrease in time just as it has for the Holocaust. It is partially to remedy this situation that a traveling 9/11 memorial museum (Note the combination of the two terms) this week visited the Brewster High School in Putnam County. It is the creation of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. He was the off-duty fireman that the City Wonders guide spoke about when I toured the Memorial Plaza (http://www.citywonders.com/en/usa/new-york/new-york-tours/911-memorial-tickets-ground-zero-tours). The story of this person running through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel with 60-pounds of gear to save others eventually at the cost of his own life is indeed an inspiring one. The Tower to Tunnel 5K Run and Walk in the memory of Stephen Stiller honors his life. The high school students who toured the mobile memorial museum may have been 3 years old or less when 9/11 occurred. They have no direct memory of the event, of the trauma that is part of their history as Americans.

Our greatest president faced a similar dilemma when he stood at the battlefield in Gettysburg and transformed it in a sacred place in the American Civil Religion. Lincoln did so in part by linking what became the site of the rebirth of America to the birth of America four-score and seven years earlier. He did so part by stating those who stood for the union in the present were joined to those who had stood for the union at its birth. And the place was consecrated, his words were remembered, and Gettysburg became a pilgrimage spot despite its isolation.

The ways in which we humans honor the dead have a certain consistency because we are all human beings. There tend to be physical reminders of some kind such as tombs, statues, or monuments which memorializes the deceased. Certain areas may be set aside as sacred. Processions of some kind may walked, ceremonies of some kind may be held, words of some kind may be spoke or sung or both. All this is what we should be doing for 9/11.

Therefore, I propose the following:

1. A procession be held beginning at the United Nations going across 42nd Street to Times Square then turning south on Broadway ending at Ground Zero.

2. The procession should consist of
– the countries in alphabetical order of the people who died in Osama’s assault on humanity each represented by a flag and a coffin
– the families of those who died
– the police, fire, and first responders
– anyone who wants to join the procession.

3. At Ground Zero, the coffins and flags should be permanently placed around the plaza eventually with a plaque for each country.

4. Each country, the police and fire departments should have a memorial service at the plaza before the flag and coffin of their country.

5. At the conclusion there should be a “Tribute in Light.”

Ground Zero is the cosmic center of the planet for the 21st century. We need a ceremony worthy of it.

3 thoughts on “Ground Zero: Cosmic Center for the 21st Century

  1. This is a terrific overview. Two comments:
    1. Although not “the Cosmic Center for thew 21st Century, we shouldn’t forget that the Pentagon too was attacked on 911. I watched it burn that day, two days before driving north through the stench of the still burning Twin Towers.
    2. There was a maritime facet of the NYC tragedy that still needs telling. A cameo version was in Jessica Dulong’s moving Chronicles and is copied below. I await her promised full length history of the waterfront rescues.
    ___________________________________________________________________________________
    Fireboat John J. Harvey Serves Again

    Chapter Four: Fireboat John J. Harvey Serves Again ( Jessica DuLong: My River Chronicles)

    … Both towers had collapsed and the whole area was choked with dust, soot, and smoke. The shoreline was mobbed with people, and the crew prepared to take on passengers. “We pulled up and said, ‘We’re here to take you out of here,’” remembers Tim.

    A flood of injured firefighters, eyes wide, banged up and bleeding, filed past him

    “They said, ‘Well, where are you going?’ ‘We’re going to New Jersey.’ And nobody would get on the boat,” he says, shaking his head with a touch of Jersey-boy resentment. “Finally, when we offered to take them uptown, people poured on.” With about 150 people on board, the boat set out for Pier 40, less than two miles to the north.

    Meanwhile, FDNY Lieutenant (now retired Captain) Tommy Whyte had arrived at Ground Zero just after the second collapse. When he headed inland to where the buildings had come down, a flood of injured firefighters, eyes wide, banged up and bleeding, filed past him. There was no water anywhere. The mains had burst when the towers came down; the hydrants were dry. Buses, cars, fire trucks, and buildings were still blazing all around. What was needed, urgently, was a way to tap the river.

    Company members from fireboat McKean rigged up a number of hose lines, but they weren’t enough. So Tommy radioed the McKean’s pilot asking him to call the Harvey to put forward the crucial question: Can you still pump water? The answer was yes. Antique John J. Harvey, removed from regular service back in 1995, auctioned off by the city for scrap in 1999, could still pump water.

    Tommy rallied a group of men to help him gather equipment to supply the Harvey when she returned from offloading passengers. “There was a whole crew of people,” he recalls, “office guys in white shirts who worked in the buildings and hadn’t left the site, carpenters, firemen, two chiefs, just a whole mishmash. I had them strip all of these rigs that were smashed down.” He told the engineers on the McKean to collect extra hoses and fittings that weren’t being used—everything necessary to run lines from the boat. Tommy was waiting onshore when the Harvey returned.

    Because there were no cleats or bollards to use, securing the boat required stretching ropes across the walkway, tying them to trees.

    “I was standing there on the boat with a line in my hands, trying to figure out where I was going to tie to,” recalls Tim. “Tom said, ‘Do your pumps work?’ I gave him a thumbs-up. He said, ‘Can you take hose lines?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’” Because there were no cleats or bollards to use, securing the boat required stretching ropes across the walkway, tying them to trees. “Tom’s third question was, ‘What do you need to make this work?’ I said, ‘I’ve got about three hundred gallons of fuel. I can pump for about an hour.’ And I watched him deflate. But he got on the radio and said, ‘Harvey needs fuel, critical.’ ” Before long an Army Corps of Engineers boat arrived with diesel.

    The fireboats couldn’t use their deck guns to fight the fires directly because the blazes were too far inland. Instead, they served as massive pumping stations, able to provide limitless volumes of river water, supplying hoses for firefighters working on land. The McKean’s crew had been able to hook up hoses to the on-board valves that tapped into their boat’s water-main system. But Harvey’s seventy-year-old valves were corroded, so Tim figured out how to connect the hoses directly to the deck guns. In order to maximize the pressure through the hoses, stretched as far as they were inland, he plugged the ends of the unused deck guns with plastic spring-water bottles.

    Thus fireboat John J. Harvey, led by her civilian chief engineer, was able to serve the city she had been built to protect one final, crucial time. …

    … A pillow of white smoke rises above Lower Manhattan from between the remaining buildings, ascending quietly, gently, in that clear blue sky. At about eleven o’clock on Wednesday morning, more than twenty-four hours after both towers have collapsed, Ground Zero is still ablaze. No one knows yet that firefighters will work for months to extinguish the last fires, or that afterward ironworkers cutting away at the pile will pull up sections of beam, only to watch the nearly molten ends flare up when exposed to a fresh burst of air.

    I spot the unpolished bronze nozzles of the John J. Harvey’s deck guns, and a wave of love consumes me.

    As we swing around the tip of Manhattan, the caustic smell grows stronger and more bitter, the distinctive acrid mix of ash, heat, concrete, steel, and death.

    Just south of North Cove, I spot the unpolished bronze nozzles of the John J. Harvey’s deck guns, and a wave of love consumes me.

    One deck gun at the stern sends water back into the river, showing me that the pumps are operating and that the boat is actively feeding Hudson River water to the hoses on land. For the first time I see the boat pumping water with a purpose, doing the important work for which she was built.

    The merchant marine at the helm of my transport ducks the boat into North Cove, and I climb onto the ladder of a police boat, then a wooden dock before reaching solid ground. Twenty-four hours after the collapse, the search-and-rescue effort is operating in full swing. Everyone moves purposefully, the medical people in their scrubs and white coats, construction workers in their hard hats, firefighters with their turnout gear. Even on this first day after, when controls on who can enter the site are considerably looser than they will be by the time I leave on Friday, everybody seems to have a uniform.

    The seawall is lined with boats. Tugs, with their big rubber bow fenders, nose into the concrete, while the fireboats rest alongside. …

    … Tim tells me the Number Four pump needs to be repacked. After pumping all night at a much higher pressure than usual, the seal broke, sending water spraying all over the engine room, filling up the bilge. Tim has swapped pumping operations over to the Number Five engine, so now is the right time to address the Number Four. I’ve done this job once before, so I gratefully take it on, gathering my tools and heading down alone.

    The low roar of the one engine that’s still pumping cloisters me from all other sound.

    But once I’m in the engine room, a job that should take me thirty minutes takes two hours because I keep putting parts together backward. In the engine room it feels like I could be anywhere. The low roar of the one engine that’s still pumping cloisters me from all other sound, cutting me off from the rest of the universe. Normally I’d rather be on this boat, in this engine room, than anywhere else on the planet, but today I want to help in a bigger way. And I don’t want to work alone.

    Seeing how long it takes me to perform this one simple task, Tim understands how jarring it was for me to dive straight into an engine-room repair without first grasping my surroundings.

    “Come on,” he says. “Let’s take a walk.”

    The constant movement of rescue workers … makes no sense in the middle of a blizzard.

    The boat is stationed at the mouth of a treacherous scene. We walk a ramp where rows of mangled cars, many of whose drivers won’t be going home, sit neatly in their parking spots.

    What I see on this late summer day is snow. The powdery ash and concrete dust have settled on every surface. The trees—those yanked up by their roots by the collapse and those still standing—are strewn with paper, plastic bags, and debris. It looks like some kind of perverted Christmas. The constant movement of rescue workers in hard hats, coveralls, turnout coats, and blue and green scrubs makes no sense in the middle of a blizzard.

    Memos, financial reports, e-mails, a newborn’s identification card with tiny inked footprints

    I follow closely behind Tim. With each footfall my black work boots sink into the slurry of soot and water from the hoses and emerge coated in a gray film. Tim steps across puddles that I have to slosh through. I feel dwarfed by all the huge men made enormous by their fire gear, hard hats, and tool belts. Closer to the river, every window has been blown out of the otherwise intact buildings, but farther in, any trace of New York City has been reduced to rubble and ruin—all of it coated with the same penetrating, powdery dust. And paper. Reams upon reams of paper. Some crumpled. Some burned. Some perfectly flat and unmarred. Single sheets continue to fly out of shattered windows and the holes in the sides of buildings, darting like butterflies in the wind before reaching the ground.

    I pick up a few sheets at my feet. Memos, financial reports, e-mails, a newborn’s identification card with tiny inked footprints. In spite of the heat of the fires, all this paper survived. Each floor of the two 110-story buildings occupied the equivalent of an acre of land. Out of all those acres of offices, with their mazes of cubicles, their coffeemakers, bulletin boards, Xerox machines, framed family photos, desk trinkets, and watercoolers, not a single chair, desk, telephone, file cabinet, or computer survived. Only paper tumbles through the dust.

    Each step brings me closer to huge fields of crumpled steel—the raw, jagged edges jutting out in all directions—where the world has lapsed into black and white. The only color is the yellow—the stripes of reflective tape on the black bunker gear of firefighters clambering over the pile. …

    … As the sun drops out of the sky, Bob, Tim, and I gather in the wheelhouse, not saying much, just sitting. So much weight and solidarity stitches itself between us in the wordless sharing of this silence. …

    … By this point the nation has rallied into the kind of generous action that we do best: respond to a crisis with stuff. In a reenactment of the mishmash break-bulk cargo shipping of days gone by, cases upon cases of mixed goods arrive at the World Trade Center site by boat. Volunteers pile giant cardboard boxes and trash bags in the plaza near the water’s edge, directly in front of the boats. Workers go digging through a perplexing mix of irrelevant wares to find something useful—a pair of gloves, a flashlight, a hard hat.

    I read the dispatches traced into the dust on the windows: “Revenge is sweet.” “Goodness will prevail.”

    Heartfelt generosity has produced a nightmare, and I want to help make things better. “Tim, listen,” I say. “If you need me, blow the horn and I will come running, but I need to go on land and do something.” Then I climb off the boat. I can tell by his expression that he’s not happy about my leaving, but he doesn’t stop me.

    The chain of boxes stretches from the waterfront up the long ramp to the edge of the World Financial Center. I read the dispatches traced into the dust on the windows: “Revenge is sweet.” “Goodness will prevail.” “It doesn’t matter how you died, it only matters where you go.” “You woke a sleeping giant.” Among them is the word Invictus. Latin for unconquerable, it’s the title of a poem by William Ernest Henley, published in 1875, that begins: “Out of the night that covers me,/Black as the Pit from pole to pole,/I thank whatever gods may be/For my unconquerable soul.”

    Other messages are more practical than poetic: “Go to Stuyvesant High School to sleep,” and “Lt. John Crisci call home.” I just assume that particular personal instruction is directed at one of these rescuers here on site—a message conveyed in dust because cell service has been shut down for so long. Only later will I read John Crisci’s name on a list of the Fire Department dead.

    In the chaos of the effort, people create jobs for themselves. One young man with dirty, matted hair and mouth agape dashes back and forth from the front lines to the supply area to bring the diggers what they need. The masking tape across his chest says “Runner,” and his open flannel shirt flaps behind him as he goes.

    Standing next to a sign for “Luxury Yachting and Dining Afloat” I’m trying to grasp the best approach to dealing with the boxes when two hands grip my shoulders from behind. I hear a voice at the back of my neck: “Can you help?” For three days I’ve been waiting to hear those three words. A woman in a hard hat and a paper mask points at the hill of boxes and bags. “We need to make some order.”

    The ubiquitous dust has crept into the bags and boxes, and donated goods are spilling out from where people have burrowed through them. Garbage has ended up on top of usable goods that arrived in black plastic bags. So a group of us set about matching like items and separating the useful from the absurdly out of place. Workers come up saying, “I need a flashlight,” or “I need a hard hat,” or “I need a respirator,” and we give them what we can find.

    There is no singularity to the faces, all ashy and grayed-out

    But it’s impossible to keep up with the deliveries. For an hour I turn away people looking for flashlights without knowing that two cases are hidden at the bottom of the pile. Boxes of saline, eyewash, Band-Aids, batteries, Advil, face wash, anti-itch cream, peroxide, gauze, face masks, filters, used shoes and boots, jeans, TGIFriday’s hats, a box of new Miracle on 34th Street T-shirts. It just keeps coming.

    Men and women in National Guard camouflage approach the boxes asking for civilian clothes. Ironworkers wearing union T-shirts hunt for batteries. Firefighters with dust caked in their hair request bottled water. There is no singularity to the faces, all ashy and grayed-out except where rivulets of wet have traced clean lines on their skin. The rescuers are, as songwriter Kate Fenner describes, “covered in and breathing in the ones they’re looking for.”

    A building is coming down. Another collapse. We scramble to the river.

    I can see a dozen bucket brigades from where I stand sorting goods—workers are stretched in long lines passing buckets full of debris, and occasionally remains, off the pile. The buckets travel hand-over-hand, either to waiting trucks, or to fire chiefs and others on morgue duty.

    Suddenly voices swell up from somewhere deep in the pile. Then people are running past me, heading toward the river. I dart out from behind the row of boxes and jump into the mob, picking up words that explain the mad rush—a building is coming down. Another collapse. We scramble to the river that promises escape.

    People plow into me as I run. Ahead, I watch an overweight man stumble and hit the ground. Many tromp right over him, but finally a couple of men stop and help him to his feet.

    People on board start yelling at us to leave, “Go! Let’s go!”

    I dash toward fireboat Harvey. At the river, some people hook a left and keep moving, but their sprinting slows to a jog once they encounter the tangle of ropes and hose lines stretched across the walkway. Having forgotten its maritime roots, this Manhattan waterfront park doesn’t have a single cleat, bollard, or other proper fixture for tying up a large boat—every single boat has been forced to tie up to trees. People holler out, “Watch the ropes! Watch the lines!” to try to help those behind them. But everyone stalls in the bottleneck.

    I scramble over the awkward railing (built with no openings—another large-boat impediment) and climb down the seawall (built with no ladders) to the Harvey. Just as they did on Tuesday, people begin spilling onto the boats. One man, in full firefighting gear, jumps into the water. When the wood ladder leading down to the Harvey gets clogged with people, they pile over the railings, skidding down the seawall to the caprail on the boat. I stand at the edge, catching the hard hats, helmets, and bunker gear people pass to me. People on board start yelling at us to leave, “Go! Let’s go!”

    Bracing myself, I eyeball the telegraphs, hunting for any itch of movement

    I look up at Bob, who just stands outside the back door of the pilothouse watching. He sees me look up at him, keeps his mouth closed, and looks away. Tim, standing between us, looks at Bob too. A moment goes by and Bob turns to Tim, giving just a slight nod of his head. Tim turns to me and points a finger toward the engine-room door. I bolt down the stairs and fire up the engines.

    I act fast, but it still takes time. Tim stays up on deck, preparing to free hoses and lines. Once all the engines are running, I stand at my post, my heart hammering at the inside of my chest. Staying still with the surge of adrenaline in my bloodstream makes my limbs ache. But, at the same time, standing at the center of this space filled with throbbing diesels gives me an overwhelming sense of relief. No questions remain about where I should be or what I should be doing. I belong right here, standing in this spot, hands on the brass levers, watching the gauges. This is something I know how to do.

    I wait with visions of an approaching dust cloud so thick it will stuff itself like a rag down my throat. Bracing myself, I eyeball the telegraphs, hunting for any itch of movement that will allow me to kick into gear.

    Then I see the shadow as Tim steps slowly, calmly down the stairs. He slashes at the air with his hand, which I know means, “Shut down.” Back on deck I learn there was no collapse, just a false alarm. Now I understand why Tim was angry at me for going ashore. My job is here. I stick close to the boat for the rest of the day.

    ***

    The next day, Tommy Whyte tells us that the water mains have been restored. We’ve completed our mission and the boat is free to go. Just shy of her seventieth birthday, the Harvey has performed honorably, casting off the specter of uselessness implicit in her close call with the scrap heap. As we ready to leave, Tommy comes up to the wheelhouse with a few firefighters from fireboat John D. McKean and passes out small plastic cups. Into each he pours a couple inches of Celtic Crossing, an Irish liqueur with a ship on the bottle, and offers a toast of appreciation.

    Over the past three days fireboats provided the only water available at the World Trade Center site. When firefighters on land bent over their hoses to rinse the ash from their faces, they spit and sputtered in surprise, tasting the salt of the Hudson.

    “You know, we have all this beer”

    Before we can go, an Army Corps tug called the Gelberman ties up alongside the Harvey to pick up rescue workers and deliver them across the river to New Jersey’s Exchange Point. Firefighters crowd the whole back deck of the tug, ready for their workday to end, but before the boat can drop lines and head out, an announcement comes out over the marine radio. The president is due to arrive any minute, so as a security measure, the harbor has been shut down completely.

    I stand with Tommy on the bow of the Harvey as the fading sun lights up the whole sky with a rose glow. The haggard firefighters slouch against every flat surface on the back deck of the tug, silhouetted against the pink. I turn to Tommy. “You know, we have all this beer,” I begin, explaining that there are cases left over from our Hudson River trip. “It’s shitty. It’s canned. It’s warm. But do you think they’d like it?” I ask, gesturing to the guys on the boat.

    Tommy doesn’t hesitate. “I think they would absolutely love it.”

    So I open up the pantry and start handing over beer by the case, warning them it’s warm. A huge hurrah rises up through the crowd, and for the first time since Tuesday, I grin a full-face grin. Then one guy calls over, “Don’t you have any ice?”

    “I’m sorry, I don’t have any ice.”

    Then two or three of them chime in at once: “We’ll find ice!” They step over the caprails from the tug to the fireboat, then climb the seawall. When they return, with a full barrel, another great hurrah erupts. This tiny transaction offers a moment of camaraderie. Some of the ways we help can seem so trivial, but doing something—anything—matters. [READ MORE…]

    Blog | Events | Books | Portfolio | Press | Multimedia | Book Clubs | Biography | Contact | fireboat.org

    For Media Inquiries: Andy Dodds, Free Press Publicity
    212-698-7144 | Andrew.Dodds@simonandschuster.com

    copyright � 2009 Jessic

  2. The selectivity regarding whom or what gets memorialized in America today reflects an increasingly narcissistic view of the world. Experiences are “claimed” in an effort to capitalize on the pouring out of sympathy, glory and funds. The organic, non-formulized process that people over the age of 40 most likely remember has given way to a cut-to-the-chase methodology that smacks of contrivance and reflects a disturbing competition for attention and material gain. The solidification of both news and social media’s role in forming modern-day social conscience, along with the luxury of indulging any and every hurt or persecution (a luxury only nations like ours can afford) adds to this consumerism-like practice. When the national tragedy of 9/11 occurred, our initial response forgot the formula as we were stricken to the core with disbelief, grief and fear. However, as that primal reaction faded, most of us returned to “normal” even in the face of such an undeniably American event which was intended for a nation, a way of life and indeed every one of us. So as the process worked its way through and whatever benefits to be reaped were reaped, we moved on and let it fade. We returned to our respective corners, concerned with our own, day-to-day living, leaving behind those whose day-to-day living has been forever altered. In order to be true to history, memory must be vigorously reinforced. If a nation can’t properly memorialize an event such as 9/11, what then is worthy of being memorialized? History cannot serve its vital purpose while selectivity, formula and contrivance drive the process of collective memory.

  3. Dear sir,
    With great respect, please forgive me for questioning your description of Lincoln as our greatest president. It always strikes me that had there been no George Washington there very likely would not have been a United States, and therefore there would have been no presidency.
    Thank you for your extremely interesting writings.

Leave a Reply to Arlene Goodenough Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.