Random List of Names at Ground Zero Memorial Angers Families
By DAVID W. DUNLAP
Published: February 19, 2004
T matters how large the voids will be that mark the twin towers. And it matters how the grounds will be landscaped and how the horror will be evoked by crushed fire trucks and twisted steel columns. But no issue at the World Trade Center memorial will be so vexing - perhaps even irreconcilable - as the smallest and most personal.
Is there any way to express the loss of nearly 3,000 people while simultaneously distinguishing those who were trapped from those who rushed in to save them? Should lines be drawn between the north and south towers, between those who perished among colleagues and those who perished among strangers? Will such distinctions matter in 50 years or will the power of the names lie in their inchoate whole?
"There is a real tension between the national need to collectivize meaning around the names and the community's need to remember the lost ones as individuals," said Prof. James E. Young of the University of Massachusetts, who served on the 13-member jury that chose the design for the memorial at ground zero.
Gov. George E. Pataki and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg may have thought last month that they were settling the matter by announcing that the enumeration would be random, with insignia next to the names of firefighters, police officers, emergency service workers and court officers.
"It will be a powerful, powerful story," Governor Pataki said, "as these heroes are identified with shields or other markers of their profession and woven among those whose lives they sought to save on that fateful day."
But that approach disturbs many surviving relatives, who object - almost paradoxically - both to the randomness of the arrangement and to its imposition of a hierarchy among the dead.
"Everyone who was killed that day was attacked equally," said Kai Thompson, whose husband, Glenn, was a municipal bond trader and partner at Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 658 employees in the Sept. 11 attack. "He himself was overcome by smoke and fumes in the process of helping his friends and fellow workers, and he realized that he would not be able to make it out. Then, and only then, did Glenn call me to say goodbye. Was Glenn Thompson not, in his own selfless way, as heroic as any of the brave firefighters and police offices who attempted similar rescues?"
Donald W. Goodrich can ask the same question about his son Peter, a passenger on United Airlines Flight 175, whom he described as physically imposing and a stout defender of others, easier to imagine fighting hijackers than herded to the back of a plane.
"If the naked name lies next to one with an insignia, what is signified?" Mr. Goodrich said. "Now, I am smart enough to know that in logic, no negative inference arises from the absence, but the world runs on a different engine than Socrates' logic, and some, many, will take offense. The memorial wall is no place for offense. It is a solemn reflective monument of what is common to all, not what makes them different."
In a recent poll by the Families of Sept. 11 group, only 26 percent of the 2,225 responses favored the display of shields for uniformed rescue workers only. Only 5 percent favored a random arrangement of names.
"We're still looking for our loved ones," said Edie Lutnick, the executive director of the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, who lost her brother Gary. "Now, you're forcing us to look again."
Ms. Lutnick and others are struggling to propose an alternative, which has exposed painful divisions among the survivors' groups, since each tentative solution has its own drawbacks. About 20 family members met Tuesday night at Cantor Fitzgerald's new headquarters at 135 East 57th Street.
"There was little support for random listing, while everyone supported being able to choose which building you wanted to be listed on," said Thomas Rogèr of Families of Sept. 11. "Where we differed was on how names would be listed or grouped."
By way of example, Mr. Rogèr mentioned his daughter, Jean, a crew member aboard one of the hijacked airplanes that struck the twin towers. "Does my daughter get listed with American Airlines or with Flight 11?" he asked. "Flight 11 is not an affiliation."
Michael Arad, who is designing the memorial with Peter Walker, said last month, "Any arrangement that tries to impose meaning through physical adjacency will cause grief and anguish to people who might be excluded from that process."
His plan calls for dark bronze plates mounted atop low walls that would ring the pools within the voids. Names would be etched randomly in ribbonlike rows, three to four deep. Visitors would find specific names with the help of guides or printed directories.
Having shepherded the design through six months of deliberations, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has no interest now in substantive revisions.
"We are standing behind the process and the outcome of that process," the corporation president, Kevin M. Rampe, said yesterday. "One of my greatest fears is that if we start making changes, the design will never become a reality."
Moreover, he said: "Sept. 11 was not orderly or neat. It was not alphabetical. It did not go floor by floor. It was a random event. And that is the power of the event."