It’s Official: Philadelphia Is Getting a Hideous 9/11 Memorial
Nearly 15 years after the darkest day in American history, Philadelphia is set to commemorate the victims of that terrible day with a 9/11 memorial. Unfortunately, the memorial is ugly, poorly located, and conceptually flawed.
The Delaware River Port Authority board approved the proposal on Wednesday morning, clearing the way for construction to begin on the Philadelphia 9/11 memorial. DRPA spokesperson Mike Williams tells Philadelphia magazine that while the groundbreaking has not been scheduled, the current plan is to have it completed by September, the fifteenth anniversary of the national tragedy.
The Philadelphia 9/11 memorial will be located at Fifth and Race streets across from the lightning bolt Ben Franklin memorial sculpture at the base of the Ben Franklin Bridge.
The design includes artifacts from 9/11 including dirt from the United Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and a piece of steel beam from the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
But then there’s also the unnecessary inclusion of the Liberty Bell. Twice. A replica of the Liberty Bell will be mounted between two black pillars that are each nine feet, eleven inches tall and a Liberty Bell image has been incorporated into a paved design on the ground. That Liberty Bell sits on top of a silhouette of a keystone, the symbol used by state government.
To get to the site of the 9/11 memorial in Philadelphia, pedestrians will have to cross traffic, a point raised by dissenting DRPA board member Antonio Fiol-Silva during earlier debate over the project. While praising the memorial’s good intentions, he argued that the location was a poor choice.
“I’ve been wanting to go to the site there to see the Ben Franklin memorial and the plaque that is in that location,” Fiol-Silva said during previous meetings on the 9/11 memorial. “I feel that I’ve got to someday get the courage to make the dash across the road to the site in the middle there — and I don’t know if you’re going to have to peel me off the side of the road.”
Fiol-Silva suggested that if the chosen location was final, a new design for the memorial was needed since, practically speaking, far more people would see it from a car than anything else. The memorial, he observed, is designed to be a pedestrian memorial but the location demands a vehicular memorial, like the lightning bolt, and he worried that it was going to become an “attractive nuisance.”
Our guess is that he was being polite.
In the end, DRPA chairman Ryan Boyer interrupted Fiol-Silva, citing the fact that the project would wind up costing a lot of money if the DRPA went back to the drawing board. According to the DRPA, the Philadelphia 9/11 memorial won’t cost the city or its taxpayers a cent, thanks to the generous support of South Jersey stone company EP Henry.
That’s all well and good, and the intentions are, no doubt, admirable. But if Philadelphia is going to get a new 9/11 memorial (the one here is perfectly austere and dignified), it should be one befitting the enormous loss experienced that day, and one that as many people as possible will visit. And one that only comes about after significant public input and notice — not as the result of a unilateral decision by the fiefdom known as the DRPA. If we have to pay for it, so be it.
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