This post is from Abby, our guest blogger. The image is of the future plans for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
On February 4 we will be co-sponsoring a program with the National September 11 Memorial and Museum . The program, called Regarding the Pain of Others, will look at representations of atrocity and how people react or fail to react to them. It promises to be a powerful program and another opportunity to explore the relationship between tragedy, memory, and contemporary society.
We met with colleagues from the 9/11 Museum yesterday at their offices. We discussed outreach for the program, how to generate an audience, what resources could be shared, and we talked about the state of culture downtown. I am pleased to have them as neighbors and colleagues. Creating a memorial and museum to commemorate such acts of unadulterated evil when so little time has passed since those events is a monumental undertaking that by its nature has to be fluid.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage opened in 1997, the USHMM opened in 1993, 50 years after the end of the war, but the idea of a memorial in Israel was under consideration when World War II was still being fought. According to the Yad Vashem website, it was first proposed in September 1942 at a board meeting of the Jewish National Fund by Mordecai Shenhavi, a member of Kibbutz Mishmar ha-Emek. He proposed creating a memorial to the Holocaust and to Jews who fought in the allied armies. The first buildings at Yad Vashem opened to the public in 1957.
Regardless of whether or not distance from an event is necessary or even preferable before plunging into the memorialization process is not my argument to make. As a person who viewed much of 2001 through 2006 through the prism of 9/11 I absolutely see the necessity to create a memorial and a museum now. And as a professional who works at a Holocaust memorial and museum I see the wisdom of allowing intervening years to inform the process. Of course the world is a different place and no one would allow 50 years to pass before honoring a tragedy of such dimension.
The offices of the 9/11 Museum are across the street from the World Trade Center site. They are perched, along with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, on the 20th floor of a skyscraper and when our meeting concluded we were invited to walk over to the floor to ceiling windows and look down on the site. I had been to many meetings at LMDC in the months and years just after 2001 and at that time the area was a giant grave site. It could not be confused for anything else. But yesterday, seeing the steel for the museum in place, the outline of the Freedom Tower, and of course the bustling movement of construction equipment and materials being moved down the ramp, it was a transformed space. One does not see all of this progress from ground level, the true expanse of the work can only be seen from the offices of the LMDC and the 9/11 Museum. And that is probably fine – the work happening on the site is daily evidence of what the future will bring, and hope for the future is certainly what inspires both organizations to do our work each and every day.