Sorry I’ve been out of pocket, Mr. Beale and I spent the past four days in New York City for our pre-Tony’s theater trip. It was unbelievably hot and muggy in the city for this time of year; it felt more like July than May. That’s true for Nashville as well, and while we were gone Nashville broke a record with 95-degree temps.
We’re in New York City at least twice a year for theater and other cultural stuff. This year we also visited the 9/11 Memorial. It was a rainy, gray morning when we visited, which seemed very appropriate. We both found the site very dramatic and emotional, and the two massive waterfalls cascading into the void make a powerful statement that hits you on a lot levels:
It was also really moving to see all of the names engraved around each pool. Some names were familiar — Todd Beamer, for example — but most were unknown.
What is really striking is the diversity of ethnicities represented in these names. It shows what a truly multicultural event 9/11 was, and still is. There were a lot of foreign visitors there, also a lot of foreign sailors since we were there during Fleet Week. Large boards surrounded the site where visitors could write thanks to the recovery workers who spent so many months on the site, most suffering debilitating lung disease as a result. These messages, too, were international in scope.
The 9/11 Memorial site is surrounded by intense security: you need to go through airport-style scanners to get in, there are at least three security checks plus chain-link fencing and security cameras. And this, too, seems appropriate, for 9/11 was ground zero for our modern security state.
With all of these powerful emotions and thoughts running through my head I was unprepared for the major buzzkill that was the memorial’s Visitor Center, which is really … a gift shop? Seriously? On hallowed ground we have a freaking gift shop? With 9/11 T-shirts, refrigerator magnets, keychains, and tote bags? Tacky, tacky, tacky. (You can see the stuff on sale here.) It seemed really crass to me, but I guess exploitation of 9/11 is another legacy of the event, so I shouldn’t be surprised.
Everyone seems to be jumping on the 9/11 memorial bandwagon. I just read that the Kingston Fossil Plant, site of Tennessee’s disastrous coal ash spill, will dedicate a 9/11 memorial using steel from the World Trade Center today. I find that very odd. But hey, whatever.
More on my trip here.