Here is an interesting set of pictures of what the 9/11 Ground Zero memorial is going to look like. The architect talks about his own experiences in putting this together here. See the official website here.
I assume there will be a lot of discussion about the memorial once it is fully open to the public. Does it adequately sum up American feelings and experiences regarding 9/11? Memorials not only invoke the past but also reflect our current understanding of past events and people. Such spaces can both provoke and inspire collective memories, meaning they can reinforce already existing narratives or ask people to develop their own (like the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial).
Robert Putnam and several other researchers discovered that there is a large gap between what Americans say about religious freedom and what they are actually willing to live near:
Three quarters of Americans said they would support a large Buddhist temple in their community, but only 15 percent would explicitly welcome one. Americans, in other words, supported the idea of a temple but weren’t so crazy about the bricks-and-mortar aspect of things.
Recent survey findings in the wake of the Ground Zero controversy reveal similar findings:
Polling last week from Quinnipiac University revealed exactly the same paradox. Seventy percent of Americans support the rights of Muslims to build the mosque, but 63 percent believe it would be inappropriate to actually build it.
It sounds like there is an ideal that Americans hold about freedom of religion: many different groups are welcome. But this ideal is difficult to put into action.
Now that we are nine years removed from September 11, 2001, this is something I’ve wondered: how do schools teach about this day? According to the Christian Science Monitor, there seems to be a variety of approaches.
Another place to look would be school textbooks. With evidence that textbooks either just plain get it wrong or present biased perspectives, how younger generations learn about 9/11 will be something to watch.
Overall, both specific school lessons and textbooks will help shape the American collective memory regarding the event. This collective memory can take time to develop and is likely to be controversial; just look at how long the 9/11 memorial is taking to shape up at Ground Zero.
Here is an interesting question that is part of the debate over the proposed Islamic community center: how big is Ground Zero and who gets to decide? According to a story from the AP, the definition is up in the air:
Even the public and private agencies closest to the site don’t have one definition of ground zero’s boundaries. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — which owns the trade center site and is rebuilding most of it — says it is bounded by the fence, which has moved a few feet in both directions as construction has progressed.
This is a cultural issue that still needs to be worked out. Wherever the line ends up being drawn, it will be a symbolic boundary that separates the hallowed ground of the attack site from the normal New York City land.
It will also be interesting to see who gets to be the ultimate gatekeeper in this situation. There are a number of groups with vested interests – whether they can come to some sort of agreement remains to be seen.