Sunday, October 24, 2004

Bereavement in the Public Square
I've been sitting on this post for a while as I haven't been able to decide whether to make it a research post or to just go on about the story at hand. The Washington Times in its October 11 issue had a London Telegraph story titled "Landfill remains grave to 9/11 ash." And since I decided against Googling up a link, the lead reads as follows:
The remains of hundreds of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks are to be permanently buried in the world's largest garbage dump, to the consternation of their grieving families.
Relatives were assured that the ashes resulting from the fireball would be returned to the World Trade Center. Then they would form part of a planned memorial after being sorted from the half-million tons of debris from the Twin Towers that was taken to the Fresh Kills landfill site on Staten Island.
I have a problem with this. First, who in his right mind assures families that ashes from the flaming destruction of two of the world's tallest office buildings is going to be sorted from the resultant debris? This beggars belief. First, the percentage of ash that could be attributed to human remains has to be a slight fraction of the total ash, much less the total debris. Are the families of the most famous group of people murdered in America really so in need of a physical reminder that they must have those ashes? Even those ashes are likely to be of copier paper and office furniture? I'm sorry. I'm sorry for their loss but I'm even sorrier that they are so unable to move on that they insist on the separation of ashes from the landfill.
But even more than that. The families of the victims of 9/11 have received compensation from the government that is in excess of anything received by any other group. And as sorry for their loss as I am, it isn't right that they should have gotten so much taxpayer money. Shouldn't the families of the victims of the bombing of the Murrah Building be compensated then? Where does it end? The answer is that it doesn't. I'm not saying that 9/11 families should have to give back what they have been given but there must be a point at which the cost of their grief, which has been more shared by a nation than any mass grief in America's history, the pure dollar cost must come to an end. Here are the further details from the story:
City authorities have since balked at the estimated $450 million cost of moving the ashes again and have promised the creation of a 2,200 acre park on top of the dump - whose rotting contents smell of methane gas - and erect a memorial instead.
Relatives of the 1,169 victims have yet to receive any remains of their loved ones, and many are outraged at the authorities' decision.
Your outrage rings a bit hollow at this point. How many military families have a framed flag as their only memory of a husband or brother lost in the service of the country? I don't know but the possibility that the number is greater than 1,169 seems good.
I think the idea of a park on the landfill seems absurd. Isn't the site of the WTC being dedicated to the memory of our loss? There's the park. It is the place for a cenotaph. Make a plaque for each life lost and give the families each a plaque cast from the same mold as the one on the cenotaph. As it already stands:
The office of new York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pointed out that the coroner's office was still trying to identify 10,260 fragments of remains gathered at Fresh Kills. Those that remain unidentified would be interred in the official memorial at the Twin Towers site.

The expenditure of $450 million, however, is absurd. The families were overpromised. The person who overpromised should be identified and demoted. He or she is no proper steward of the public's money. No one would gain from this exercise in government waste - not even the families. It is time to stop public grief from overwhelming common sense.

No comments: