Visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum – A Humanist Monument

Unknown-1It was a little before 10 AM; I was enjoying the lovely weather, in my comfy lounge chair outdoors, working on a coin catalog, when my wife drove up and, with tears in her eyes, said, “The United States has been attacked!”

Recently on a New York jaunt we visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It was impressive and moving.

UnknownThe memorial pools have a beautiful grandeur that photos do not convey. The museum too is, of course, a memorial to the 2,977 people lost; and one alcove, displaying all their photos, gives a sobering sense of just how many people that was – real people, not faceless numbers.

But mainly it is actually a memorial to the buildings. Now, we have visited numerous sites and museums with ruins, but this is different. Here are the ruins of buildings that were part of my own life. The PSC where I worked had offices there, and over many years I attended numerous hearings there, sometimes for weeks at a time. Also, the annual international coin show was held there; the last in December 2000.

Unknown-2Yet this is a profoundly humanist monument. In memorializing those buildings, the museum memorializes the people who built them, showing what a stupendous undertaking and achievement this was. The contrast, though unstated, is inevitable, between the soaring ambition and effort of those people, and what can be said of the ones who authored the destruction.

Of them the museum is, fittingly I thought, silent (except for a solitary exhibit case concerning the Abbottabad mission). The destroyers would have said they acted for God, and that was another thing fittingly absent from the museum – the word God. Given America’s pervasive religiosity, the omission reflected remarkable restraint by the museum’s creators, who eschewed all sorts of mawkishness that would have detracted from the solemnity. They seemed instead to follow the principle of res ipsa loquitur – the thing speaks for itself.

Photo by Therese Broderick

Photo by Therese Broderick

I am proud to be part of a society that conceived and built those buildings, as well as this memorial – and the new tower. It’s a better society than the one that spawned the destroyers.

2 Responses to “Visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum – A Humanist Monument”

  1. erobinson100 Says:

    As a matter of fact, we studied the case of the WTC extensively during my “Iconoclasm and Iconophobia” class this semester. Ironically, no one seemed to like the towers much until they were gone; by destroying them, the terrorists endowed them with much more meaning than they ever would have had otherwise. Along the same lines, the decision to rebuild the towers is an interesting one. Had that space been left wide open in downtown Manhattan, future generations would be very cognizant of what had made that space so empty to begin with. It is possible that re-building the towers may actually detract from the power of the empty space (though I also acknowledge the great symbolic meaning of re-building them).

  2. rationaloptimist Says:

    Thanks. I felt that we would not be who we are if we had not rebuilt.

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