Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Bottomless

 



     Our son works in the Financial District in Lower Manhattan. So when we visited him last week, we got a hotel room next to the new One World Trade Center, steps away from the site of the old, and of course we paused to contemplate the 9/11 Memorial, "Reflecting Absence."  
     If you've never been, the footprint of the north and south towers of the old World Trade Center have been preserved, two squares formed by bronze parapets, listing the names of the 2,983 people who died that day in the terrorist attacks, plus those lost in the 1993 precursor bombing.
    Water cascades 30 feet down each side — the largest manmade waterfall in North America— and in each pool, what I consider the brilliant stroke, is "a smaller, central void," in the words of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Those two square pits you can't see the bottom of, a perfect physical evocation of endless grief after profound loss. You yearn to see a bottom, but there is no bottom. Only emptiness.
    The design, by the way, was done by an Israeli-American architect, Michael Arad, his work picked out of more than 5,000 submissions. While not generally a fan of memorials, some events are so enormous, our humanity demands it. Which makes me wonder how we will commemorate COVID. Arad has proposed something interesting to honor the 50,000 New Yorkers who died of COVID: a "floating sanctum" at the bottom of the Central Park Reservoir.  It would only appear when the water is lowered for maintenance. Most of the time it would be out-of-sight, which is fitting, since even the most terrible events submerge in our consciousness. Time heals whether we want it to or not.
     “I liked the idea that for one week each year, you could access a place in the city that at other times is just a submerged memory,” Arad told Architectural Digest. “The Reservoir exhales, the level of the water sinks, and the dam appears so you can traverse it on foot.”
     I imagine, on that one week a year, it'll draw quite a crowd. For a long time. But not forever. Nothing is forever. Not even grief.






5 comments:

  1. If forever is defined as the life of the bereaved, I would suggest that the emotion of deep sorrow that is felt very often does last forever.

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  2. I'm sure the 9/11 Memorial draws large crowds, and will do so for many years to come...long after we're forgotten dust. But not forever. Nothing is forever. Not even the grief and loss of that tragic and fateful day.

    For at least a decade afterward, I avoided all 9/11 commemorations or observances. No radio, no TV, no internet. The anniversaries were dominated and appropriated by Republicans, xenophobes, and American exceptionalists. But that seems to be diminishing more every year, and you can thank the passage of time for that.

    Time's passing heals almost everything. Less than a third of Americans living today were alive when JFK was killed. The annual ceremonies at Kent State now attract mostly survivors and eyewitnesses. Some of those most directly affected by May Fourth have already joined the ranks of the fallen. Nothing is forever. Not even the oldest rocks...the oldest trees.

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    1. Surely some memorials lose their impact over time. The son of a Pearl Harbor survivor probably appreciates the USS Arizona memorial more than most. A 72 year old Irish Catholic Democrat feels a little more claustrophobic in Dealey Plaza. But while New Yorkers are more connected to 9/11, it was an attack on us all and will probably endure. When Vietnam Vets aren't there to tell their stories will the Wall lose its' impact? I could be more sensitive to history than most. Standing at the base of a Giant Sequoia more than 2500 years old, my mind wondered if this living thing was there when Socrates drank a cocktail made from a related botanical.

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  3. In my last job I regularly visited Manhattan and walking along 42nd street from my Lexington Avenue hotel to an agency on Avenue of the Americas was used to glimpses of those inelegant twin towers whenever a gap between other tall buildings occurred. Traveling the same route more recently it took a bit to realize something was missing. Like the dog that didn't bark in the night.

    Tom

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  4. We were there last year. It is so moving.

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