Jul 04 2008

Flight 93 Memorial Being Destroyed By Petty Stubborness

Published by at 8:16 am under All General Discussions

Updated Below

I have the honor of being grouped with some of the best bloggers in the world on a blog-burst call for action regarding the 9-11 memorial for flight 93. You can visit The Bigsibling Blog here, the site that called for this action.


When the Crescent of Embrace memorial to Flight 93 was unveiled in September 2005, these six high profile conservative bloggers were instrumental in raising the public protest that forced the Memorial Project to agree to a redesign. Charles Johnson stayed with the story until the summer of 2006, and Ace has done twolinks since 2005, but for the most part, these conservative heroes seem to have decided that the “circle of embrace” redesign is okay.

It is NOT okay. Architect Paul Murdoch described his original Crescent of Embrace design as a broken circle. The redesign is still described as a broken circle, and the unbroken part of the circle (the crescent) remains exactly as it was in the original design.


Actually, I do not condone the design one way or the other, I sincerely thought the last round in 2005 fixed the problem. My original post is here, with the incoming calls for action from other bloggers filling up the comments section. The original design was a crescent, as the designer named it.  It also was nearly identical to a Muslim Crescent, as can be seen in this design from 2005:

The problem appears to be the redesigned memorial did not go far enough to remove all key vestiges of the original offending design. Bigsibling has many design images that show the redesign effort to be a weak cover up, instead of what was needed: a complete redesign. (old design on left, ‘new’ design on right).

An animation shows just how little was changed from the first, clearly wrong-headed design to the current marginally changed one (click to enlarge):


Crescent-Bowl, site-plan animation, 300px


There is a good statement at Bigsibling Blog as to why there are breaks in the circle and what they are intended to represent:

The trees surrounding this “circle of embrace” are missing, or broken, in two places; first, where the flight path of the plane came overhead (which is the location of the planned memorial overlook and visitor center) and second, where the plane crashed at the Sacred Ground (depicted by a ceremonial gate and pathway into the Sacred Ground).

OK, these features make sense, and the crescent shape is diminished quite a bit. But the fact is the line of the plane and the impact zone are a small area in the circle – which makes the circle basically immaterial and irrelevant. The circle encompasses a lot of land that has little to do with the site. I am at a lost to understand why the circle is so important when the event it is meant to memorialize skims the outer rim.

While I may not be as concerned as others on the shape so much, the basic problem here is that the folks running this design effort forgot who it was for – the victims and their families. Instead of running a process that built consensus, they ran one which shoved one design and designer down the throats of many victims’ families.

The first design was a complete insult to the Americans who died at the hands of Islamist Terrorists (note: not ‘Islamic’). And the folks running the memorial KNOW THIS, which is why they attempted the redesign. There is no way an Islamic Religious symbol should cover the graves of these Americans. If any religious symbols should be visible it should be from the victim’s religions and note who belonged to which. I would wager the only dead Muslims on the site are the terrorist murderers.

If the memorial group realized their mistake then, then they should realize that they made a second mistake in not going back to the drawing board with the many other great designs they had in their hands. This stubbornness to hold onto the circle is just as bad as any issues (real or imagined) people have with the now glossed over crescent.

Whoever is running this thing probably should have been removed when the original design hit problems and the dissensions began. Clearly they need to be removed now, because this has turned into a monumental disaster led by bureaucratic ineptitude. One set of families is adamantly opposed to the designer and the basic design, while others are so fed up with the controversy they just want to get the whole thing over (article link):

Anticipating more protest against the Flight 93 National Memorial design during a meeting today in Somerset, family members of some of those aboard the flight held a news conference Friday in Pittsburgh defending the maligned memorial.
“Rather than standing pat and being quiet, we’re standing up and saying, ‘Enough,'” said Patrick White, vice president of the Families of Flight 93.

“There’s no particular ownership of this shape,” she said. “… We felt confident with the notion that the void in the embrace was representative of loss.”

But Burnett, reached by phone in Minnesota, vehemently disagreed. He said a consensus was not reached, that he was among six people who voted against it and that he raised serious questions about Islamic symbolism.

“I spoke out about the symbols and tried to explain to them that the Islamists had been using those symbols for hundreds and hundreds of years,” Burnett said. “… It’s very pretty, but it doesn’t belong there where we lost 40 American heroes, including my son Tom.”

Now some are claiming the ‘crescent’ is not a symbol, and are hiding behind the bureaucratic BS line that nothing can be done now, that it is now too late:

More than 1,000 designs were whittled down to five by the first jury, made up of design professionals, family members and community members.

A second jury selected the design from among those final five.

The family members said large changes to the design are out of the question, although alterations are expected as the conceptual drawings become schematic plans.

“I would be wary of making major modifications to a memorial that was selected using the process that was used,” Gordon Felt said. “We can’t satisfy everybody all the time.”

This is a bunch of crap. We can do lots of things, and the first one is to realize the original design, no matter how much some liked it, is just one of many possible designs and it needed to be tossed when the crescent controversy hit. There is always a clean sheet of paper – and they collected thousands of options which they have in hand to select from. The problem seems to be that some refuse to let go of their precious little crescent/circle and are not listening to other family members or other Americans upset by the fact we started this mess with a clearly named red-crescent.

Now the emotions are high and the backs are up and the thing is an unmitigated mess. This can be fixed, but it requires new people willing to bridge differences instead of promote their own views on others who are repulsed by those views.

The answer is to dump the current design and process, and use the 1,000 other entries to create some other concept – sans a circle. There is nothing sacred to America about a circle, unlike those who believe the crescent (aka a broken circle) was a license to kill 3,000 Americans on 9-11, and a license to plan to kill many more since.

Get a clue people, that vacuous circle of irrelevant land is not the sacred element of this memorial – the grave site is. Dump this and start over. Find some other shape to design around and this mess will be over. Remain stubborn and the memorial will be remembered for the bitterness in its development and not the people who died that horrible day in September.

BTW, I located the above article from this site on the memorial itself, which has other information for those interested. A PDF file on “The Bowl” portion of the memorial park can be viewed here.

Update: First off, there is a call for support for Mr. Burnett at the up coming meeting (sounds like a good day to travel to PA to see the memorial site):

Come to the August 2nd meeting

If you can make it to Somerset PA on Saturday August 2nd, come help Tom Burnett Sr. tackle the hijacker!

Secondly, I really begin to wonder about this memorial now. It seems incredibly oversized. I think memorials should be something you can take in, spending maybe a half day at most exploring. Beyond that it becomes a chore, and no memorial should be a chore.

Now, before people go all ballistic on me, I want to put this into context with my favorite memorial on the Washington DC Mall – The World War II Memorial:



This memorial “honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home”. That is far more Americans, who also died for their country, than those who perished on Flight 93. The WW II National Memorial takes up less than a city block. I wonder how much of the Flight 93 Memorial is meant to be a legacy for those who perished, vs those building the memorial itself?

Another example, the 9-11 memorial at the Pentagon, which will be dedicated this September. It honors 187 deaths.



Anyway, I still say the process tainted the current design and the country needs a fresh start.

24 responses so far

24 Responses to “Flight 93 Memorial Being Destroyed By Petty Stubborness”

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  2. […] thanks to AJ Strata for taking another look, and writing a long post on the fundamentally unchanged memorial. It looks like he might keep after this too, since he gives […]

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