Americans are said to have short memories. Sadly, very few remember some horrific events in our history. For example, May 18, 1927, was a day of unspeakable terrorism, when Andrew Kehoe killed 46 people, including 38 schoolchildren, in Bath, Mich., because he opposed school taxes. On the other hand, we will never forget the chilling words of Timothy McVeigh that the innocent children killed in the bombing of the Arthur P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma were “collateral damage.” Some may have forgotten the innocents slaughtered by Kehoe, but thanks to the beautiful, reverent, and inspiring memorial built in Oklahoma City, we will always remember the innocent children and our fellow Americans murdered on April 19, 1995.
Looking at the at the empty chairs that face the reflecting pool in Oklahoma City, each one representing a life taken—large chairs for the adults and small chairs for the children—we instantly recognize the enormity of that horrific day. As we journey through that beautiful memorial, we can see each one of the faces of those slain presented respectfully, giving us a glimpse into their lives and crystallizing the tragedy of their murders.
Today, the details of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center are starting to emerge. These details command that we stand up and advocate that America’s 9/11 memorial be done correctly, reverently, and respectfully.
There are shameful mistakes in the memorial plans that must be corrected. For example, although each one of the lives lost on 9/11 at the Pentagon, in Shanksville, Pa, and in New York will be inscribed on parapets surrounding two waterfalls and pools representing the footprints of the Twin Towers, the victims’ ages will not be provided. Also, the names will be randomly placed, making it very difficult to find them by individual. Disturbingly, uniformed personnel, including the 343 members of the FDNY, will not be listed with their rank. It will not say Chief of Department Peter Ganci, or Father Mychal Judge, or Deputy Chief Ray Downey because it was decided that this would create a “hierarchy of death.” This is the epitome of political correctness run wildly amok. Meritorious attainment of a designation such as Dr. or CEO, chief or reverend, does not create a hierarchy of death, but rather recognizes achievements in lives well-lived.
In addition, the 9/11 museum—primarily underground—plans to present “a river of faces” in a “memorial exhibition.” Unbelievably, this consists of small photographs of the victims, stacked one on top of the other, the top row of photos 12 feet above floor level, in a giant mosaic. To get information on one of the victims, you need to go to a computer in one of three kiosks. These stolen lives are not a “river of faces.” They are individuals who are entitled to have their photos and their lives recognized individually and respectfully, not cataloged in a kiosk that will be difficult to access at best.
Ironically, the terrorists are to be given their own corridor, their photos at eye-level, with their martyrdom quotes and artifacts, such as one of the terrorist’s visas, for all to see. This cannot be allowed to happen while the innocent victims are treated as some nameless group in a river of faces. Nowhere in this museum’s plans will you find any of the individual victims’ artifacts of life, such as a pair of running shoes or a child’s favorite storybook. Decency mandates we put the murderers’ information on a kiosk computer so that this offensive garbage does not have to be viewed by those of us who would rather never have to look at their horrible images again, or be disgusted by their vile comments.
There are also plans to place nearly 10,000 unidentified human remains behind a memorial wall inside the lowest level of the paid-admission museum with a plaque identifying the location of the remains. This plan is considered by international protocols and museum professionals to be highly unethical, unorthodox, and improper—and it was done without consulting and receiving the consent of all the affected families. The nation expects and deserves a dignified tomb at ground level, accessible to all, so that we can forever pay our respects. It should be a stand-alone monument similar to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It should be staffed by an honor guard as we do for our unknown soldier, as a national symbol of our loss that day and of the sacrifices and the honor shown by our fallen. The unidentified remains of those lost on 9/11 must not be a “programmatic element” of the museum, which turns sacred human remains into a museum exhibit.
The final outrage of these deeply flawed plans is that one solitary American flag is to be flown at the site. We must insist that a flag be flown for every individual who fell that day, acknowledging every nation that suffered a loss. One flag for each of the fallen—that is the least we can do. We should ring this hollowed ground with a wall of flags.
Each of us must e-mail a letter immediately to Mr. Joseph Daniels at JDaniels@September11MM.org and Ms. Alice Greenwald at agreenwald@September11MM.org. We must demand that all uniformed personnel have their ranks appear with their names. We must demand that everyone be treated as an individual, with biographies and personal artifacts displayed, so that each individual’s humanity is respected. We must insist that an above ground tomb, a national monument, be erected to house the humanity that remains unidentified. We must have the terrorists’ information moved to a location away from those we honor. We must demand that our flag, and the flag of every nation who lost a citizen that day, fly over the site for every person memorialized so that we always remember reverently the individuals murdered on 9/11. To do any less is immoral, cowardly, and disrespectful. Simply, any less is un-American.