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9/11 Families & the New York Times on the Right Way to Remember

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The top Op-Ed in the New York Times on Saturday was entitled Sept. 11, 2010, The Right Way to Remember.

The New York Times has usually been exemplary in memorializing the people killed on that day nine years ago.

In this specific piece's eleven paragraphs, however, the reader is told not to "wallow" and that the right way to remember 9/11 is to think about the memorial, the transportation hub and the overall architectural boon of urban life that will come out of the ashes.

People are named. Terry Jones, three times.

Just as the gravestones in a cemetery are secondary to the grave, no memorial will replace the solemnity of victims helping other New Yorkers to remember the specific loss of 9/11, the specific meaning of the day.

The memorial is not about the architectural triumph of rebuilding over grief. It is about protecting the sanctity of life in New York for all of us, by not dimishing the victims, by remembering each by name aloud for all the city to hear once a year.

Some still mourn the loss of those skyscrapers from our skyline. Some only have that land as a cemetery. The compromise between making downtown Manhattan a graveyard and a new development, was to make that area sacred ground.

Let's be glad life goes on, but remember that if we forget the enormous personal tragedy of that day, we risk diminishing the value of our own lives. We remember in order to protect all of us who live in New York. We will not be collateral damage here.

The images of 9/11 are sparse on victims, and heavy on building destruction. Because so many of the dead were inside the building, they died without witness, even though we believe we witnessed 9/11 because we saw the buildings come down. 9/11 was about the hidden deaths, the lives extinguished in the cover of so much clouded destruction.

Hate-speech gets a few paragraphs in the op-ed. Terry Jones gets three mentions. The terrorists are in there. Political figures with Muslim antipathy are slammed. John Boehner gets a plug for his antics also.

All in all, the op-ed gives lots of nods and scolding fingers to all sorts of people it deems worthy of remembering in a piece entitled The Right Way to Remember.

The rest of the piece is dedicated to features included in Michael Arad's emerging memorial. There was no mention of the trees dedicated one to each victim. The firefighters are not mentioned.

Larry Silverstein is mentioned. Fumihiko Maki. Michael Bloomberg. Santiago Calatrava. President Obama and President Bush. This is the danger of orienting our memory on the memorial, rather than the grave meaning of so many civilian casualties.

The wrong people are named by name in The New York Times 9/11 op-ed on the Right Way to Remember.

The Right Way to Remember is the way the families and the firefighters do it. They read out-loud each and every name of the victims. Politicians are tiny in this ceremony--their quotes have no more rhetorical power than a woman's voice cracking at the mention of her sister's name. They speak briefly, and step aside quickly.

The name she reads is the one New Yorkers must remember, not the ones that made it into the op-ed.

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