Jane and I write today of the fragility of our humanness, and also, the interlocking of time. I may place our work of today here, because I feel it is an important day for us, as are all of them, naturally, and of course.
I am with that today, as I read of the launching of the space shuttle yesterday and the danger the people aboard may still be in, and, as I read of North Korea, and, then, this editorial.
How do we balance the human and divine? Perhaps, as this editorial suggests, in the randomness that makes us one.
Naming Names at Ground Zero
We have always respected the emotional burden the 9/11 families have had to bear, as well as the complicated ways that private grief intersects with public issues during the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan. But when it comes to the heated debate over how the names of the victims of the World Trade Center attack are to be placed at the ground zero memorial, we are simply puzzled.
The original design, endorsed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki, places the names randomly around the two pools at the memorial. The natural analogy is to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, by Maya Lin. There, the names of the dead are recorded in the order in which they died. Neither rank nor hometown nor the circumstances of death intrude.
We will never know the order in which the 2,979 people who died on 9/11 met their deaths, nor will we know, for most of them, precisely where they died. To record their names randomly — though there will be clear guides posted at the memorial showing the location of every name — is to acknowledge the randomness with which death struck on that day and to honor the individuality of every victim.
In contrast, many 9/11 family members have argued that the names should be grouped by the tower they died in, the company they worked for, and the floor they worked on. The impetus is, in part, the desire to place loved ones in their context, to provide a richer narrative for each individual. That is more than any memorial can hope to provide, and part of the argument for a 9/11 museum.
This manner of arranging the names defines the identity of the people who died there almost solely in terms of their employment affiliation, rather than their stark and common fate. It will always be important to remember the names of the men and women who died at ground zero. But will it always be important to remember that they worked at Cantor Fitzgerald — to recreate on the memorial the office groupings in which they worked?
Death comes to each of us alone, no matter who we work for or who our colleagues are, and it came alone to each of the men and women who died on 9/11. To us, the most respectful acknowledgment we can make to them is to acknowledge them as individuals.