Burried in an New York Times article on plans to preserve the columns of the WTC is an announcement by the Port Authority on plans to remove the Cross at Ground Zero to storage with other WTC artifacts. The cross has been a lightning rod for Christian groups that wanted it as an integral part of any memorial. The Cross is the last iconic above ground artifact at Ground Zero (even though it had been moved from the location where it was found).
The article itself focused on Port Authority legal memorandum pledge to preserve “to the maximum extent feasible” the bases of 84 columns from the north tower and 39 columns from the south tower during the construction of the new $1.7 Billion downtown Transportation Center. In addition the Authority says it will incorporate historic features of the E train subway platform into the new train station, designed by Santiago Calatrava and build a glass wall to afford views of column bases obscured by the construction. Groups that have received the memorandum to sign include the Federal Transit Administration, the New York State Historic Preservation Office and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.
While I have my own opinions about whether it was unusual to find a cross shaped piece of steel in the ruins of two 100 story buildings, the cross did achieve iconic powers. The power of 911 is the perception. The powers that be have bent over backwards to obliterate any above ground trace of those perceptions. There are no shards, no sphere and now no cross.
Underscoring this omission is that the Port Authority is now bending over backwards to protect what is not visible above ground. The effort to protect the sites visible from the subway is the same as trying to visualize the magnificence of the original Penn Station from its original platforms which are still in use. The new generation can not appreciate what was at Penn Station just as the next generation will not be able to appreciate all that happened at Ground Zero by looking at subterranean cement and steel. We should not hide this country’s icons.