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The 9/11 Museium Is Open
May 19, 2014 5:31 PM   Subscribe

"The exhibition starts with one shining, unfathomably terrible morning and winds up as all of our lives, as banal and constant as laundry, bottomless.. . . I think now of every war memorial I ever yawned through on a class trip, how someone else’s past horror was my vacant diversion and maybe I learned something but I didn’t feel anything. Everyone should have a museum dedicated to the worst day of their life and be forced to attend it with a bunch of tourists from Denmark."

Steve Kendell writes a powerful essay on visiting the new 9/11 Memorial in New York City.
posted by schroedinger (97 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Looking at the New York Times virtual walkthrough last week was enough to give me a flashback and has left me in a foul and despondent mood all week.

I really seriously shouldn't set foot near the place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:39 PM on May 19 [5 favorites]


Reading about this museum made me deeply uncomfortable. A gift shop? Commemorative earrings?

The author's point about children in war museums was sobering, too. It's always someone's pain on display.
posted by third word on a random page at 5:41 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


I read this today and almost had difficulty finishing the article. As mentioned in the other 9/11 thread (which is probably still open, but I hope this post says because the article is so good on its own) I cannot see ever going to this museum myself, unless it's many years in the future with children who are not born yet. I can still VERY clearly put myself on the corner of Chambers St. and the West Side Highway the night of the 14th, when my Chorus showed up en masse to sing for the rescue workers who were driving back and forth from Ground Zero. I can still remember walking back past St. Vincent's Hospital, where family members were still posting MISSING signs, hoping that someone would find their husband/wife/child. The museum is not for me.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:42 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


A gift shop? Commemorative earrings?

Oh, there have been much worse offerings.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:44 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


A gift shop? Commemorative earrings?

Probably about as American a statement a memorial about 9/11 could make.

I read the NYTimes walkthrough last week and felt viscerally sick. Definitely not a place of honor.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:45 PM on May 19 [18 favorites]


A museum to a tragedy that was used to spawn even greater tragedies. What could possibly be better?
posted by b1tr0t at 5:51 PM on May 19 [27 favorites]


b1tr0t, that's the other thing, too. There are millions of innocent people who lost their lives because of what happened on 9/11. But their names are not on any wall.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:53 PM on May 19 [52 favorites]


It's a great essay. This bit, though, summarizes a good part of why I'll never feel tempted to go:

and a video wall with people like Hillary Clinton laying out the justification for the unending war on terror, tying grief inextricably, cannily to political ideology

A large but finite tragedy got turned into an almost infinitely large tragedy, on purpose because it suited their political and commercial needs.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:09 PM on May 19 [23 favorites]


If we create a tasteful, thoughtful, sober memorial to 9/11... the terrorists win?
posted by Cosine at 6:15 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


A gift shop? Commemorative earrings?

Yesterday's NY Post headline was brutal: Visit mass grave, buy a t-shirt
posted by photoslob at 6:21 PM on May 19 [17 favorites]


did people really think there was anything left that couldn't be commoditized?

never underestimate the ability of americans to make a buck out of anything
posted by pyramid termite at 6:24 PM on May 19


9/11 was a tragedy, sounds like this museum is a travesty.
posted by Catblack at 6:32 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


and a video wall with people like Hillary Clinton laying out the justification for the unending war on terror, tying grief inextricably, cannily to political ideology

They might as well call this the "Osama Bin Laden The Brilliant Strategist" wall, since his endgame was not a few thousand dead Americans (and many more left traumatized and/or grieving), but to draw the U.S. full on into the Middle East to squander any shred of goodwill in the Arab world and progressively drain the economy at home. The attack at our financial heart was not the wiping out of the towers; it was placing us on a permanent war footing in a progressively unwinnable, indefinable conflict that has made many more abroad hate the U.S. as much as Bin Laden did.
posted by blue suede stockings at 6:36 PM on May 19 [51 favorites]


A gift shop. But any sort of art/cultural component, well that would be difficult:


"In August 2005, the LMDC announced that the Drawing Center would explore other downtown locations as alternatives to the WTC site in response to controversy surrounding the cultural complex. A month later, then-Governor George Pataki announced that the IFC would not have a place at the cultural center planned for the WTC site, saying that the events of 9/11 should be the sole focus of whatever cultural institution finds a home there. In March 2007, the city announced that the Signature Theatre, an Off-Broadway theater on West 42nd Street, would not move into the WTC center due to logistical issues..."
posted by R. Mutt at 6:42 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


Memorials like this are not built for the author of this article. People with deep, personal connections to the tragedies suffered are already well-accustomed to the horror of the event and visiting a building erected in remembrance of that suffering is a sure-fire way to trigger those feelings anew.

Rather, this memorial (and others like it) are built to inform the people that have little to no connection with those events and to forcibly invoke emotions that they otherwise wouldn't have. I feel utterly unconnected to the events of the Holocaust because they occurred way before my time, but visiting Holocaust museums always leave me with a combination of reverence, disgust, and sadness...and that's entirely the point.

If a similar museum is ever erected for the Boston marathon bombing, I'll be staying as far away from it as humanly possible. Like anybody else near the finish line that day, I'm ecstatic that the 2014 marathon went so smoothly and I look forward to every subsequent marathon returning to an oddball event that gleefully shuts down the city for a day. I lived the tragedy and processed it. Now I can get along with the rest of my life.
posted by notpace at 6:45 PM on May 19 [13 favorites]


After the full-bore TSA-style security check, complete with body scan...

What the fuck? This isn't required to get into... The library of congress (which is actually pretty bereft of actual books, sadly), congress (great tour, or I enjoyed it), to get on a train (yet), to cross a border...

Or is the full TSA style security check to remind americans, that things will never be the same (and they must put up with security theatre for the rest of their lives, because, freedom)?
posted by el io at 6:48 PM on May 19 [34 favorites]


But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced
posted by Postroad at 6:51 PM on May 19 [19 favorites]


Memorials like this are not built for the author of this article.

The memorial is not "for" anybody living or working in New York City or its inner suburbs on or around 9/11 either, then. I was there; everybody was deeply traumatized. Well, except for the idiots taking footage of the burning towers with their video cameras from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Maybe the memorial is for them.
posted by mirepoix at 6:51 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


If we create a tasteful, thoughtful, sober memorial to 9/11... the terrorists win?

The museum sounds awful, but there is a tasteful somber memorial and that's the pools in the footprints, which are now free and open to the public. I visited them today after learning from a link in the other museum thread that they were no longer fenced off. I found them incredibly moving, almost overwhelming.

I think now of every war memorial I ever yawned through on a class trip, how someone else's past horror was my vacant diversion and maybe I learned something but I didn't feel anything. Everyone should have a museum dedicated to the worst day of their life and be forced to attend it with a bunch of tourists from Denmark.

This was on my mind today. I'm not a family member or survivor, just a New Yorker scarred by that day, but I was the only one at the pools crying, that I saw, seemed like it was smiling or dispassionate tourists everywhere. It was a weird and alienating, yet cathartic and moving, experience. I don't regret going. The pools seem like possibly the only response to 9/11 that is not awful.
posted by Mavri at 6:51 PM on May 19 [11 favorites]


//After the full-bore TSA-style security check, complete with body scan...//

I got the chance to tour the West Wing of the White House a few weeks ago. I actually set foot in the Oval Office. (The door was open and the only thing between me and the President's desk was a red velvet rope, and a guy with an automatic weapon.) We walked through a standard airport style metal detector, that was it. Granted, we all passed a security check just to get approval for the tour.
posted by COD at 7:15 PM on May 19


$24 to get in. The country sent millions and millions and ended up with a theme park.

Everything about this place strikes me as sickening. The mementos of grief preserved forever. The photos of the lost on display. Voicemail from ghosts. Makes me want to puke.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:16 PM on May 19 [10 favorites]


Crikey.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:45 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


The pools seem like possibly the only response to 9/11 that is not awful.

The Newseum did a pretty great display on Bill Biggart. (Albeit in between patting the news media on the back and completely ignoring their role in drumming us on into two unnecessary wars.)
posted by fifthrider at 7:50 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I dislike this memorial. I dislike the entire concept of treating the footprints of the buildings as hallowed ground.

I was in New York that day. I didn't watch it on TV, I watched it out my window, and on street at the corner of Graham and Metropolitan in Brooklyn. I was born in New York just barely long enough ago that until 2001, I didn't know New York without the towers. They were, in many ways, a symbol of my New York.

I could've understood if they'd rebuilt them differently. But I feel like what's been done to my hometown is like the equivalent of having a loved one get shot dead in your house and insisting on leaving the bullet holes in the walls un-repaired, in memoriam. It's ghoulish.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:55 PM on May 19 [21 favorites]


9/11 Truthers to protest the Museum by handing out brochures that closely resemble the material handed out to museum visitors.
posted by dry white toast at 7:57 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Truthers are so classy.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 8:08 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


9/11 Truthers to protest the Museum by handing out brochures that closely resemble the material handed out to museum visitors.

That complements the Buzzfeed article perfectly. They get what they want, what they think they need, rationalizing it as something that everyone needs, just like the people who still believe that 9/11 was an excuse to hate all Muslims forever. They're no better than the lookie-lous who want to sneak into the room with the unidentified remains.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:12 PM on May 19


Why do I feel sickened by this thing? Is it because it is still too soon? Maybe, for me and others who were adults on 9/11. I am personally revolted by this thing. But I see it might have a need, and that need might not be apparent right now to everyone who seeks solace from this terrible loss.

Is it because this is a grave site, not a war memorial? No, because then what about Gettysburg, or Antietam, or Arlington, or Lincoln's tomb, for that matter? I get the feeling that some consider it ghoulish to make a museum on a grave site, but it's really a fairly normal way of memorializing grief in America and really everywhere, so no.

Is it because it is possible to do these things the right way, at least when enough time has passed ... or even closer in time?

Am I just pissed off by the crassness of a $24 admission price (twice or more what it ought to be, to the extent it sounds like somebody is making a profit) and a gift shop?

No. They have costs that must be met, I am not privy to their books, and the museum is located on some of the most expensive real estate in the western hemisphere and where employees have to be paid a living wage in the most expensive city in America; I get that.

But, based on what I read here and in other accounts online, this 9/11 museum is not doing it the right way, because they are jumping ahead a step and not creating a memorial that is appropriate for the living survivors of the victims and those others who feel a living trauma from the event.

Maybe it is just the need for time to intervene; maybe a generation needs to go by and let the loss settle down into respect and institutionalize our reactions as pride and noble grief, pro patria, rather than shock and terror at individual loss, before it makes sense to create a museum like this.

And I guess that there were those who rejected the glorification of the Civil War and WWI dead as I do now at the time their monuments were raised 100-plus years ago.

Well, I wish I lived in New York so I could properly boycott this museum; that is my gut reaction. That is just what seems right for me. I am not saying others today, or future generations, or kids born since 9/11 should do the same or feel the same as I do. My not visiting means nothing, really, nor should my reasons mean anything to those who do find meaning or solace from the place. And I would go back to Kansas City or Indianapolis or the fields of Pennsylvania and Maryland. or any of those memorials to the ancient dead in a heartbeat. Walk Antietam or Gettysburg and contemplate the hows and whys of the thousands of deaths that occurred there. Maybe the answer is just for me, and maybe others who were adults when 9/11 transpired can become comfortable with the conclusion that this museum may not be for them, but it will be right for somebody, someday.

I hate typing the above, but still felt the need.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 8:18 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]


Would an admission price of $9.11 be more or less crass? I can't decide.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:41 PM on May 19 [9 favorites]


this memorial (and others like it) are built to inform the people that have little to no connection with those events and to forcibly invoke emotions that they otherwise wouldn't have.

"Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:  
What place is this? Where are we now?
I am the grass.
Let me work."

(But for me, tho I haven't been to NYC since the Twin Towers were very young, I have little desire to be one of those out-of-towners schlepping through this. And no thanks, too, on Holocaust museums.)
posted by NorthernLite at 9:07 PM on May 19 [5 favorites]


I firmly believe this needs more time to become tolerable. Holocaust survivors as a group didn't talk a lot about the Holocaust until their own children became adults and they wanted their kids to understand. The drive for the museums and memorials came as the survivors entered old age and they had grandchildren. That's enough time for history to begin to find the proper perspective and for survivors to have sat with the horror long enough to know if and how they want it memorialized.

I can't imagine what a 9/11 museum is OF, except ghoulishness, because its too recent to be historical and the individual are too non-famous to make it anything other than rubbernecking.

A memorial, good. A marker until people are ready for a full museum. A plain marker until someone comes up with the proper permanent one, even. But a museum this soon? No, its too much. I just -- its like crashing a funeral to gawk.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:20 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


Teju Cole:
The 9/11 Museum charges $24 entry and has a gift shop. Museums have a way of showing us who we are, and not only through their displays.
posted by RakDaddy at 9:35 PM on May 19 [8 favorites]


Whatever else is wrong with the place, and I agree with y'all that it seems like there's a lot, whoever had the idea to have "early exits," for those who thought they could handle it emotionally but were wrong, deserves a medal.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:57 PM on May 19 [10 favorites]


For me, 9/11 is an embarrassing reminder of what we were, what we could have done when faced with such a brutal blow--but then there is what we actually did, and what we now are. The event itself was a tragedy, of course, but what has been done in its name completely shadows the event itself, a tragedy dwarfing the original (as noted above).

I think history will mark 9/11 as the end of the American Empire, and, more importantly, the death of "the American dream" and "the American experiment". Perhaps the museum intended to capture that. Congratulations in that case, I guess.
posted by maxwelton at 12:24 AM on May 20 [10 favorites]


A gift shop?
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:52 AM on May 20


"My dad died on 9/11 and all I got was this stupid shirt."
posted by empath at 2:17 AM on May 20 [14 favorites]


Among the myriad reasons I will not be going to this 'museum/memorial",

I wander to a tucked-away corner to find a giant photo of people leaping from the burning building...

A couple years ago I flew into Newark and took the Path train into town. I hadn't done this in years and years, and forgot that 'World Trade Center was one of the first stops. Or maybe I just figured they would have, you know, completed the tunnel or something. Instead, we come out of darkness into bright daylight and the pit where they were still sorting out the foundation for the new tower. I hadn't been down there in about five years and definitely hadn't been on the Path train since it started running again. The shock was bad enough that I barked out 'Fuck!' and then turned away, feeling like an ass for not having dealt with all this shit yet. But I still haven't. And maybe that's just the way it is.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:00 AM on May 20


The shock was bad enough that I barked out 'Fuck!' and then turned away, feeling like an ass for not having dealt with all this shit yet. But I still haven't. And maybe that's just the way it is.

Amen. I grew up in Brooklyn and as a kid had family in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Fort Lee is the town that is in the NJ side of the George Washington Bridge and has a perfect view of Manhattan.

As Italian-American families, on Sundays me and all the cousins would go to Grandma's in NJ. Every Sunday, we'd have all the pasta and meat courses and play in the streets while the grownups played cards, and on nicer Sundays we'd go down to the Hudson and have huge family barbecues on the Palisades. Every Sunday, going to NJ.

As a kid, I grew up watching the Twin Towers being built. You know how when you're a kid, some things in time seem like forever and others go by way too fast?

Watching the Towers go up seemed to encompass my entire childhood. It felt like it took the entirety of my childhood to build those things. It was a construction project that lasted my entire life. Or so it seemed to me as a child.

We would look into the city and wonder if those damn things were ever going to be finished. It was kind of a family joke. "Look!! They added another floor!"

And of course, they were eventually finished and we kind of forgot about them. Me and the cousins all grew up, I moved to Boston, they moved into the City.

My Brooklyn cousins got jobs in Manhattan; one at Cantor Fitzgerald and another joined the FDNY.

You can probably see where the story is going and how it ended. Two of my cousins were killed on 9/11.

Although my mom thinks our family story could be an awesome children's book, growing up in the shadow of the towers, I try not to think about it too much.

I haven't dealt with this shit yet either.
posted by kinetic at 3:21 AM on May 20 [27 favorites]


I was in NYC that day. I have no intention of ever visiting this museum.
posted by spitbull at 4:13 AM on May 20


I worked across the street from the WTC, both before and after the disaster. I've always had a morbid curiosity about the site reconstruction; I carefully studied the renderings of the new site plan, and I had a firsthand view of the new buildings going up.

What was never obvious from the renderings is that the museum, from the outside, is designed to look like a toppled tower. I didn't need to go inside to be triggered, I just had to walk past it. I was so glad when I was finally laid off.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 5:00 AM on May 20


But, if 9/11 isn't turned into a shopping experience, don't the terrorists win?

Or to lay sarcasm to one side for a moment and to quote Manhunt, specifically, to quote General Stanley McChrystal, who commanded the US Special Operations Units that went looking for Bin laden:

"I'm not sure America has made the effort that it needs to to understand what it is we just went through. The really key part is not how to do these operations. The thing to understand is why are the people that we are fighting doing what they're doing? Why is the enemy the enemy. If you don't understand why they're doing it, it's very difficult to stop.

We don't speak the language enough. We don't understand the culture enough. We haven't taken the time to -- to not be blind, deaf and dumb in areas of the world that matter to us.
"
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 5:31 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


1970s Antihero: " the museum, from the outside, is designed to look like a toppled tower. I didn't need to go inside to be triggered, I just had to walk past it. I was so glad when I was finally laid off."

FUCK WHAT THE HELL
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:56 AM on May 20 [10 favorites]


A writer friend who lives in New York wrote on his fb that "We were all living in that 9/11 Giftshop years before it opened."

I watched everything from that day on TV, all the way over on the other side of the country, and I can't imagine wanting to visit this museum. Just, no.
posted by rtha at 6:28 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


If the 9/11 museum in America doesn't charge $9.11 to get in, that isn't an America that I want to live in.
posted by Sphinx at 6:40 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


I first visited New York as a tourist in 2005. I had two profound moments in Lower Manhattan. The first: taking the 1 train down to South Ferry and the train slowing to a crawl through the Cortlandt Street station. The second: walking the pedestrian path through the construction site and seeing the gaping hole where everything used to be.

Even as a visitor, that great absence and sense of interruption was enough.
posted by pianoblack at 6:40 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


After you've visited the 9/11 museum, be sure to check out the Holocaust Museum and the Irish Potato Famine Memorial, each conveniently located just a few blocks nearby. You know, just in case you weren't depressed enough.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 6:48 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


In the other thread, I mentioned that my brother came for a visit with his family about 2 years ago, when my niece was 3 and my nephew was just a baby. He said he was toying with visiting Ground Zero, and asked if there was anything that the kids would get - I said that for them, it'd pretty much just be a random construction site. Then he asked if I'd been, and I said no - and I'm not sure he complete understood why.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:21 AM on May 20


It should be $9.11 entrance fee, but give us $10 and the other $0.89 goes to a suitable emergency services charity.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 7:33 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


A writer friend who lives in New York wrote on his fb that "We were all living in that 9/11 Giftshop years before it opened."

I haven't spent much time at all in NYC since 2001, but the sense of cultural appropriation was present on my brief visits nearly a decade ago. I went to the top of the WTC in the late 90s, saw the towers from the upper floors of 3 WFC in early 2001, and haven't been to Lower Manhattan since.

I didn't want to go there when it was a big awful hole, even though there were lots of visitors (including in-laws) who wanted to look at the big awful hole, and there was a pervasive feeling that the viewing platform around the big awful hole existed mostly for the benefit of national politicians cheering on thinly-related wars, and for people in town from faraway states to see Les Miserables.

That Buzzfeed piece talks about war memorials in passing, but the war memorials that I know from Europe are generally the local ones where names on plaques speak to genuine family connections. This, on the other hand, feels like grotesque kitsch.
posted by holgate at 8:24 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I have no personal connection whatever to those events, aside from being in the country when they happened. The only thing I'd expect to derive from visiting the memorial is a reminder that the day was a blow that we evidently can never recover from. I already remember more about it than I would prefer. Even today I can't get started in the morning without checking to see if anything exploded while I was asleep. If the heads on TV look bright and cheery and are talking about business as usual, then I proceed as planned.
posted by Flexagon at 9:21 AM on May 20


Someone in the other thread said that a $4 tax levied on every American household would pay for the museum in perpetuity, rendering the entrance fee and (grotesquely) tacky gift shop moot points.

However from the NYTimes photos from last week, I think a fairly decent job has been done with much of the space. It seems quiet, contemplative; feels like some very Japanese elements went into much of the design. Certainly reminds me of the Japanese Cultural Centre here in Toronto.

But, as I said in that other thread, Exit Through the Gift Shop, indeed. The people creating these crass, tacky souvenirs (I mean FUCK, souvenirs of thousands of people dying what the actual hell) should be shunned for life.

I guess what bugs me most is the death of a part of the American psyche that I had always admired: knock us down, we will shrug you off and come back better. Now it's become, knock us down, we'll kill hundreds of thousands of people, then charge you $24(!) for the experience of reliving that day, oh and buy a commemorative coffee mug while you're at it.

Please excuse me while I go bleach my brain.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:26 AM on May 20


As I've said in countless other 9/11-related threads, I was across the street, at my desk, when the planes hit, and now, nearly 13 years later, I still feel as if the appropriate response was to blacktop the whole site, build nothing, and put a fence around the whole thing. Cos' that's what we've learned.
posted by AJaffe at 9:31 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


My personal hope for the memorial was always a wide open space, with 3000 trees (apologies for not remembering the exact number). Life out of death.

Or something involving trees, in any case. Green. Life. 9/11 has become a death-cult for many Americans. We (in the global society sense) need to look to the future, need to look for green growing things and life and love and all of those things, not to set in stone the (tragic) deaths of all those people.

A park, maybe with plaques, would have been so much more appropriate. The pools have an austere beauty, for sure, but one can have a sombre feeling while still making everything else green and growing and good.

The Americans I always looked up to pre-9/11 would have just said "Fuck you," cleared out the debris, and rebuilt the towers.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:38 AM on May 20 [11 favorites]


I've been reading this all morning and I can't help comparing it to visiting a concentration camp site, since that's the only comparable site of mourning I've been to, though I know they're not directly comparable.

Anyway, I think what sits worst about it in comparison is that the American response to 9/11 has required this fixation on heroism or vengeance or 'coming back stronger' or some combination thereof. I am thankful to not have any deeply personal connection to 9/11 but I feel like those who do must have a hard time processsing and grieving because there are so many words thrust at them about how to feel and what it means about America. And I am not German, so I can't speak for how their citizens feel about the camps, but it seemed like there was so much more room at the camp I went to to just feel whatever you wanted to feel about it. No gift shop, no big exhibit about liberation day or the tanks rolling in (that I remember), no real focus on the heroes or "what have we learned" or How Germany Recovered and Became Great Again... just the space to think.

It's like Americans aren't comfortable with just saying "some really shitty shit happened here and we can't really explain how shitty it was so everyone can just reflect on that in their own way". It has to be packaged into some narrative about the American spirit.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:42 AM on May 20 [8 favorites]


It's like Americans aren't comfortable with just saying "some really shitty shit happened here and we can't really explain how shitty it was so everyone can just reflect on that in their own way". It has to be packaged into some narrative about the American spirit.

This. The museum/memorial should only be about contemplation, not some slick walkthrough guided from bloodstained high heels to photos of people jumping out of the towers. Like I said above, I think they got some of the spaces right in the museum--that one room with the square (room?) in the middle surrounded by water, for example.

Oh well what's done is done I guess.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:51 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


...vulgarity with the noblest intentions

So, I've been wondering. Do other countries do this? Is this an American thing? This commercialization, the stuff-ification of national grief and tragedy? I was in Albuquerque, and 14 years old on September 11th. NYC and DC and PA was basically the other side of the world to me. I grasped its importance, but not a personal connection. Teenage arrogance and whatnot.

But later on, I was part of a community that had it's own national tragedy, Virginia Tech. I had a friend that had a part time job at an on campus art gallery, which became the place to put the "stuff" that people gave the students and the University. She had to catalogue donations. Some were profound. There was an American flag quilt made by the mothers and grandmothers of the Amish girls who were shot at school. Some were weird. Some were overwhelming, like the uncounted, but easily over 1,000,000 paper cranes folded by school kids from Japan and the US, or the cards and letters, and class projects. And then some were just buckets of junk given with the most sincere feelings and intentions. The one that I remember was that the mall in the bigger town next door had a Lucky Jean store. They were doing some promotion where you'd get a free leather bracelet with each purchase. The bracelets were stamped with words: some said "HOPE" or "LOVE" but some said "LUCKY". Well, bless their hearts someone at that store decided to fill up 2 shopping bags, drive them right over, and donate them to the student center. Which meant they wound up at my friend's desk. There clearly weren't enough bracelets to give to every student on campus, and there was no way to distribute them. Was a bracelet, promoting a jeans company, supposed to console you? How LUCKY you were to still be alive?

Keeping the "consolation donations" organized, catalogued, and just housed and kept from molding, or disintegrating and getting crushed was a huge effort. Warehouse space had to be rented. And thats not even counting the people who showed up. Like some bizarre traveling circus of grief. The guy with a piano on the back of his truck. The guy who played the glass armonica. The elks club giving out hot chocolate (which I appreciated). The Scientologists giving out brochures (did not appreciate). Sat trucks and on-camera talent. I had a moment where I realized that there were more outsiders in front of the student center than students. That this was some strange organic outgrowth that had nothing to do with me, my friends, our school, our community, and absolutely nothing to do with the people that lost their lives the weeks previously. They were the mascots.

So, is this the kind of thing that communities that get this kind of attention deal with around the world? Or is there some kind of uniquely American impulse that says "Here, send this macrame barbie doll to the grieving masses!" "Let the bereaved be consoled by my bumper sticker!"
posted by fontophilic at 10:27 AM on May 20 [7 favorites]


History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. (Karl Marx.)
posted by WalkingAround at 10:29 AM on May 20


I'm from Oklahoma City. You won't find me near the Murrah Building Memorial any time there are throngs of tourists. You might, however, see me there at sunset on a warm Summer evening paying my respects and quietly contemplating America's collective loss of innocence. I just need the space, not the details, the presentations, or the tour guide. The reflection pool, and silence are all that is necessary.

These memorials are not always geared for the survivors, victims, or anyone closely associated with the tragedy. They are for future generations and the larger audience not directly touched by the events as they happened. If you were there, if you heard, if you felt, smelled, saw it first person you need no reminders of what was lost.

Not many Holocaust survivors wish to go to a Holocaust museum either. I will, however take my sons age 14 and 11 to these type of Memorials because they need to understand the impact, the loss, the sacrifices, and the incomprehensible tragedy. They have been taught respect and understand reverence, empathy and compassion - they won't be treating it like Disney.

That said the excessive admission and the gift stores are beyond tacky.
posted by HyperBlue at 10:45 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Do other countries do this? Is this an American thing? This commercialization, the stuff-ification of national grief and tragedy?

'Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake' -- one of those times where The Onion got it exactly right in a way that's hard to sum up.

I think there's a broader thing going on: it's possible to feel connected to tragedy and to participate in collective rituals of grief even if you're far away, and not really connected, because this stuff gets delivered to you in real time, in hyperreal form. The stuff that surrounded Princess Diana's death was perhaps the first big instance of this.
posted by holgate at 10:49 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I feel like those who do must have a hard time processsing and grieving because there are so many words thrust at them about how to feel and what it means about America.

This. Yes.

'Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake' -- one of those times where The Onion got it exactly right in a way that's hard to sum up.

My mother talked to me a couple years back about what the day was like for her; and I don't mean that in an "it's all about me and never mind you who lived through it" way. I made sure that my parents were the first people I called when it was obvious that Shit Was Going Down, and in fact my mother was blessedly not watching the TODAY show as was her wont so she hadn't even heard that anything happened until I called her and the first thing out of my mouth was, "first thing: I am safe and I am okay. Now let me tell you what just happened...."

So on the one hand she was aware that something really big and major was happening, and that her child was looking out her window and seeing it - but where she was, in Cape Cod, she was looking out the window and everything looked totally normal and it was a sunny beautiful day and it was just profoundly surreal. She'd made a hair appointment that day, and kept thinking maybe she should cancel it but then went ahead anyway because she didn't know what else to do, and a few minutes into the appointment she blurted out "my daughter is in New York right now" to the hairdresser and they talked a little about everything, but then everything was totally normal where they were, so it just felt really weird.

I don't know if it's so much of a commodication-of-grief thing, so much as...you're aware of so much more going on in the world these days, things that in the past you wouldn't have heard about at all because it was much further away. If something goes down in your community, it's obvious what to do - you can see whether you need food or clothing or money or whether there's already way too much of that, you can see where the fallen trees are in danger of cutting power lines or where the flooding is at its worst and so that's where you need to put the sandbags, or whatever. If you're there, you can see what needs doing.

But if you hear about something happening so far away, that instinct is still triggered - but you're not nearby and so you don't have a sense of what to do, and you're also looking around at where you are and everything looks fine, and it's just a really strange mindfuck. And that's the mindfuck that makes a lot of people donate flag cakes or whatever. You're aware of the tragedy but you don't have a connection to it - so you want to help but disconnected from the best way how.

I would have much preferred well wishes and inquiries into what the victims and survivors themselves requested, and patience as we processed it, to any of the commemorative coins any day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:12 AM on May 20 [7 favorites]


Someone in the other thread said that a $4 tax levied on every American household would pay for the museum in perpetuity

Thy the 9/11 museum, and not any other US memorial/site that charges admission?

Perhaps it is because we aren't much more than a decade past it, but it feels as though we treat this as, proportionately, a much bigger deal than it was. Between that, and the natural outcomes (the Iraq War, TSA, etc.), I honestly feel like we need to dial it down a bit.

I'll sit here now, and wait for the Thought Police to haul me off for "Less Than Patriotic(TM) Thoughts."
posted by MrGuilt at 11:18 AM on May 20


I'll sit here now, and wait for the Thought Police to haul me off for "Less Than Patriotic(TM) Thoughts.

On the contrary, I wanna hug you for finally getting it. I can't speak for everyone else in NYC or DC, but I would like nothing more than to have the nation dial it back because that would give the actual people who actually went through this the chance to process things in the way that is best for them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:22 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


I wonder how Rwandans feel visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:44 AM on May 20


When I think of September 11th I often think of Luc Sante's poem "The Unknown Soldier." He wrote it in the 1990s but it fits, in tone if not in specifics, and goes well with Steve Kendell's essay.

Remember me when you fall on the sidewalk. Mention me when they ask you what happened. I am everywhere under your feet.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:27 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I suspect some of those "museum" funds would have helped keep some of the neglected first responders alive.

"When will they ever learn."
posted by Twang at 12:28 PM on May 20


Inside these cabinets are the remains that, after nearly 13 years of the most rigorous testing known to man, have not been matched to the DNA of any of the victims. Just drawers and drawers full of…stuff. I wouldn’t really want to think too hard about what exactly that stuff is, but given that it’s a picture window looking out at cabinetry, there isn’t really anything else to think about. This chamber is meant to be a sanctuary, but I cannot ruminate about the arbitrary cruelty of the universe or lament the vagaries of loss and love because all there is to see are armoires packed with carefully labeled bags of flesh too ruined and desiccated even for science. My sister is among the many for whom there have been no remains recovered whatsoever. Vaporized. So there’s no grave to visit, there never will be. Just this theatrically lit Ikea warehouse behind a panel of glass.
How is this a real, actual thing? How did someone decide that this was something that needed to be built, and seen? And exclusively by relatives? Just staggering.
posted by bright cold day at 2:07 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I'm ok with there being a shop. I understand the feeling of wanting to "get something" that can help you recall the feelings you may have had at a particular place. I'm ok with the t-shirts, for example.

But... some of the stuff just weirds me out - particularly the things where they've made something pretty and elegant. Like the ties and scarves that use the lines of the towers' design as a motif. It's actually a very nice design, until you think about what it is. "Oh what a nice tie...oh, er, um, yeeeaah not so much." Or the umbrella where the underside is a picture of a tree, but the outside is dark blue. It just makes me think of "protecting yourself from falling debris."
posted by dnash at 2:08 PM on May 20


I looked up the Auschwitz Museum to find out what they have. They have a bookshop. With books about the Holocaust. That is all, as far as I can tell - no memorial coffee mugs or aprons. Just some relevant educational materials. That would be the sensitive, sensible thing to do.
posted by gingerest at 2:18 PM on May 20 [6 favorites]


One of the proposed designs for the Congressional Gold Medal to be awarded to the museum in honor of the victims is a crying eagle. That's definitely an iconic image of the aftermath of the attacks, but probably not really appropriate for the award. Thankfully, the other ones are better.

also ugh, that truther in the comments
posted by Small Dollar at 3:11 PM on May 20


There are a lot of tacky things at the gift shop, but I cannot wrap my head around the fact that someone thought it appropriate to stock memorial ashtrays. They're stamped with "HONOR" and "REMEMBER".

This is wildly inappropriate unless, I suppose, you're meant to perform symbolic reenactments by setting fire to cigarettes, grinding them to ash, and covering them with debris. [image from the Daily Mail article]
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:29 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I love New Yorkers. A friend of mine told me a few years back..."I was at a barbecue at Patti Smith's place in Soho when the planes hit. I was stuck there for three days - Can you imagine!?!"

edit to add, whenever I'm in lower Manhattan, I always get a knish.
posted by Abinadab at 4:41 PM on May 20


I don't understand the commodification of any part of it. What do you do with your Two Towers mug? Does it get stuck next to the "World's Best Dad" and "Hello from Miami Beach" and cat mugs in your cabinets over the Keurig? Do you bust it out every morning? Or maybe just when friends come over and you start running out of mugs? "Oh, what shall I wear today, oh, the Two Towers scarf looks pretty good with this blouse." Do you put the 9/11 coffee table books on your coffee table next to the ones with pictures of famous castles or waterfalls or whatever the hell people have on their coffee tables? I am pretty sure nobody comes back from Auschwitz with a picture of the gate emblazoned on a t-shirt or Atocha station in Madrid with a train-themed ashtray or Srebrenica with "NEVAR FORGET" pens to be thrown into a kitchen drawer with the shopping lists.

It is tacky and fucked up. It seems uniquely American that we'd happily attach our grief to the most atrociously banal things. But maybe that's what makes the museum so special. A big ol' FUCK YOU to the terrarists--check it out guys, we're grieving OUR way, the MURKIN WAY. With MONEY. And T-SHIRTS.
posted by schroedinger at 6:29 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


The memorial for the Madrid bombings is a hill with one tree planted on it for each victim. It's peaceful understated and lovely. I was moved when I visited it and I didn't even know what it was at the time.
posted by empath at 6:59 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


It seems uniquely American that we'd happily attach our grief to the most atrociously banal things

Eh, I don't know about that.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:11 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


The madrid memorial.
posted by empath at 7:17 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]


I love New Yorkers. A friend of mine told me a few years back..."I was at a barbecue at Patti Smith's place in Soho when the planes hit. I was stuck there for three days - Can you imagine!?!"

In 2001, the PRODUCERS musical was the big hotness on Broadway. About a month after the attacks, a friend reported noticing and being temporarily confused by seeing that suddenly, there were huge lines at the same-day ticket window for the show each night. Then he realized - it was all New Yorkers who'd realized that a lot of the tourists who'd bought tickets in advance before the attacks were probably not showing up, and this was thus their chance to maybe finally get at the hottest ticket in town. "And that's when I realized," he said, "that New York was gonna be okay."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:34 PM on May 20 [6 favorites]


9/11 has become a death-cult for many Americans. Completely agree. We are worshiping death way too much these days.
posted by etaoin at 8:27 PM on May 20


I did not know anyone directly that died that day. And I am thankful for that.

I was (and am still) living in the tri-state area. I remember September 11, 2001 vividly. My company headquarters was on 5th Avenue and 15th Street, and I had to go there a couple of times a month (my outpost office was in Stamford, CT) to have meetings and so on. It is not necessary to go into my personal details of that day, but I do remember having to go to HQ on September 14 or 15 for a meeting - the actual date is a bit hazy at this point. I remember feeling an intense need to go and see the site. So I took the subway as far as City Hall or Brooklyn Bridge (I cannot recall with accuracy). I was not prepared for the lines that were set up just to get through the area. The National Guard guiding people through the streets with stanchions set up for the flow. I was not there to gawk, or to be a part of a scene. I just had a need to see it with my own eyes. I remember the smell of burning. I will never forget the moment when I realized just what I was smelling. I kept thinking of the trip I took a few years earlier with out-of-town family, to the top of the World Trade Center. I remember white-knuckling it through the elevator ride, walking around the outside deck hiding my dread, and I couldn't wait to get back in the elevator to go back down to terra firma.

I took that subway ride for one reason - to make it real for me. To see it live and process it in my own way, as opposed to what was on TV.

Perhaps someday, I will visit the museum. I am not ashamed to say that. Everyone processes things their own way. Everyone has a story.
posted by sundrop at 9:02 PM on May 20


Interesting comments from historian Kevin Levin on his.

The problem is not with the gift shop per se. Americans have a knack for commercializing the darkest aspects of our history and culture. The problem, rather, is the timing. It’s simply too soon to build a museum, which is something I’ve hinted at from the beginning.
posted by COD at 5:17 AM on May 21


never underestimate the ability of americans to make a buck out of anything

The bulk of the gift store crap is made in China, I'd wager.
posted by Renoroc at 9:50 AM on May 21


I am just posting a link to the Humans of New York thing i read this morning, except i read it on facebook (more comments)
posted by maiamaia at 12:50 PM on May 21


Commercializing 9/11 is not new, just because there is now a sanctioned gift shop. I was here on the day (still am). A few days later, vendors popped up on the streets selling t-shirts featuring the towers, and Osama Bin Laden's face with a target on it. They sold weird buttons with American flags and the words "War on Terror!" on them. They sold these buttons in plastic bags. My friends and i (then sophomores at NYU) deemed them "shitmongering" pins (we defined "shitmongering" as the weird armchair patriotism that popped up immediately after 9/11, and it encompassed things like the merchandise for sale and the suburban houses sporting flags and our friends at colleges in other states AIMing us to join them in a moment of silence to respect the dead) and we all bought them. I still have mine in a closet somewhere. The world is weird. It is a place.
posted by millipede at 1:25 PM on May 21


9/11 Museum hosts alcohol-fueled party night before opening

“They were drinking, eating and laughing when this is pretty much a gravesite,” the employee said. About 60 guests attended the soiree from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The Information Desk on the museum’s lower level was converted into a bar for the night.
posted by porn in the woods at 3:26 PM on May 21


....Is there a master list of all Conde Nast publications? I want to know who to boycott.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:24 PM on May 21


schroedinger: "It seems uniquely American that we'd happily attach our grief to the most atrociously banal things."

"Typically" American, perhaps, but not "uniquely" American.
posted by Bugbread at 5:57 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Was the NY Daily News handed out for free in September 2001 to ensure it didn't profit off its reporting?

Just saying that NYC's tabloids are not exactly where I'd look for guidance on ethics (the NYDN is currently edited by Colin Myler, a notorious fucker) or what constitutes "alcohol-fueled", for that matter.

Perhaps a society fizzypop and finger-foods reception might be less than appropriate, but selling papers on manufactured outrage is no less so.
posted by holgate at 6:33 PM on May 21


Just saying that NYC's tabloids are not exactly where I'd look for guidance on ethics (the NYDN is currently edited by Colin Myler, a notorious fucker) or what constitutes "alcohol-fueled", for that matter.

I don't give a shit who broke the story, I only care that it got broken.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:49 PM on May 21


I only care that it got broken.

A Manhattan museum had a Manhattan-style opening reception for donors. Given that I already consider this particular museum to be grotesque, I'm not sure if that makes it any more or less grotesque, but I think it's sort of bullshitty for the NYC tabloids to pretend that they have consciences here.

Here's your boycott list.
posted by holgate at 9:02 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


9/11 Museum hosts alcohol-fueled party night before opening

“They were drinking, eating and laughing when this is pretty much a gravesite,” the employee said. About 60 guests attended the soiree from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The Information Desk on the museum’s lower level was converted into a bar for the night.


I think I just threw up in my mouth.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:02 PM on May 21


Hmm, looking at those medal designs, there's like three that aren't cringingly awful:

1, 2, and 3, which is a bit saccharine but.

Oh dear god don't read the comments, it only took four before a truther showed up.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:12 PM on May 21


....Is there a master list of all Conde Nast publications? I want to know who to boycott.

Reddit, for one.
posted by empath at 10:27 PM on May 21


Cool anecdote, but ... really, a squeegee handle?

How a Squeegee Handle Became a Life-Saving Tool on September 11, 2001
The National Museum of American History loans 27 artifacts to New York City's National September 11 Memorial and Museum

posted by Joe in Australia at 2:53 AM on May 22


How I got kicked out of the 9/11 museum.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:09 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]


"O'er the laaaaand of the freeeeee...."
posted by entropicamericana at 8:27 AM on May 22


There would be something tragically ironic about suing the 9/11 Museum for infringement of 1st Amendment rights (there is government involvement in running the place, right? Or am I mistaken?).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:38 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


its too recent to be historical and the individual are too non-famous to make it anything other than rubbernecking

Yeah, this.

I'm not against the concept of a 9/11 museum. At some point, it becomes necessary to build a museum if you want future generations to have anything approaching an appreciation for Something That Happened. But I don't think it's necessary to build that museum when there are literally millions of people within a one-mile radius from the site who can, I'm sure, tell you exactly what happened and what it meant to them. I don't think we're at the point yet where we need a museum.

I suppose there's an argument that if it wasn't built now, it wouldn't ever be built, which is depressing if it's the case.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:55 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


> Cool anecdote, but ... really, a squeegee handle?

I remember reading his story in the days right after. It doesn't feel like a random item to me, if that's what you're thinking.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:36 PM on May 22


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