Wednesday, September 10, 2008

9/11: The Formal Feeling Comes



After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?

The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.


As I thought about this seventh sad year from the attacks, Emily Dickinson’s poem filled my head and would not leave. Seven years, and a sinking disbelief remains.

Lives directly affected have moved on in varying ways, from bodies healing as they will to others who developed aftermath conditions from working on the pile.

I had no direct physical experience of the attacks, working in midtown and living on the Upper West Side. I am only part of the larger New Yorker experience, and that’s where I’m feeling stuck in the formal feeling. It’s not the stupor of the day or the first year, but there is not yet the release of letting go-—which for me might be when the Memorial and Museum are completed.

That process is itself somewhat stupefying-—from the complexity of the plans to bureaucratic delays to all the changes in designs. Even yesterday the NY Times reported “Latest Design for 9/11 Museum Merges Old and New.” Given the process to date, there will likely be yet more, other, different designs.

This description from Wikipedia is the clearest I have seen on the whole plan, called Memory Foundations, from Daniel Libeskind:

“Memory Foundations places at the center of the New World Trade Center a large memorial to the victims of the September 11th attacks. Surrounding the memorial will be five large office buildings arranged in an ascending spiral upward from the southeast of the site. The spiral's pinnacle — the tallest building at the site — will be the 1776 foot (541 m) Freedom Tower, designed by David Childs. Also included will be a transit station designed by Santiago Calatrava, a museum being designed by architectural firm Snøhetta, a cultural complex being designed by Frank Gehry, and various parks and public spaces.”

I find that there is little energy or momentum to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum: the enormity of the emotional challenge in addition to the bureaucracy has thwarted the creative process to date. There is little real focus on the fundraising for it-—no celebrity has taken on the spokesperson role.

A memorial just opened at Logan Airport. It looks perfectly fitting in scale and thoughtful in elements.

The graveyard that is Ground Zero however needs transformation that will require enormous depth of vision and strength of will. I think the delays and changes in the design are just an outward sign of the collective damage we are all still feeling.

I know the memorial will rise, in its own time, when its creators and we inheritors are at the right place to receive it. And, I believe, it will have a palpable spiritual dimension, guided by the souls it seeks honors.


(Logan Airport Memorial photo: Travis Dove for The Boston Globe)

3 comments:

kathleenmaher said...

With what great faith you're blessed.

david barton said...

re: 9/11 memorial,

I'll be surprised to find any transcendence from the World Trade Center memorial, with the way they've managed it so far. Hope I'm wrong. Maybe when I see relics from the buildings themselves I'll feel otherwise, but I thought the twin beams of light used for the 1st anniversary was far more effective than whatever solemn cliches I suspect they'll end up with(trees and waterfalls? is that what YOU think about when you think about the trade center?).

M.A.Peel said...

David, I agree about the tribute in lights. It's brilliant.