Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hierarchies of 9/11 Grief

Ground Zero Museum (14th St.)
There is a lot of talk these days about the changes in the observances at Ground Zero this year, for the 10th anniversary.
It’s a significant anniversary, not just because 10 is a special number, whether it’s a birthday or anniversary. The new 9/11 Memorial, on the footprints of the Twin Towers, opens that day (the underground Museum won’t open for another year).
Because of those things, changes have been made, and it seems no one is happy about them. Although it’s been alleged that they’ve never before been officially invited, survivors and first responders have been told there is no room for them this year. It will be families only along with a larger than usual contingent of politicians.
Personally, I have no problem with Presidents Bush and Obama, along with Mayor Bloomberg and former Mayor Giuliani attending (they’re not giving speeches). Last year Vice President Biden attended the observances, and given the importance this year, I think all four of them should be there. But…
When I attended the 9th anniversary ceremonies I was really struck by the stark, official hierarchy of grievers, a hierarchy that has existed from the beginning: families first, then first responders, then everyone else (including survivors and those who lived and worked in the area that day).
There is a very small geographic area for those attending: very, very limited. As a non-family member, I was lucky to find a spot to stand across Broadway from Zuccoti Park. The Memorial itself opens that day, but only for family members, and I have no problem with that. It opens to the public the next day, and I’ll be there on the 13th.
But I can’t help but feel great sympathy for the first responders and survivors. I’m way down the list in this hierarchy. I always knew that. But as if often the case, actions do not match words. “We’ll have a separate ceremony for you at a later date” is not a particularly respectful suggestion.
This is an extreme example of a hierarchy of grieving, of those who have “more reason” to grieve than others. I’m not going to get into that discussion, especially as it relates to 9/11. I wish there was enough room for everyone to be there, right there, in the park and on the street. Enough room for everyone who grieves someone who died that day – not just in New York, but Pennsylvania and Washington, DC.
I hope there can be an amicable resolution to this. Because there are so many people who deserve to share that day with others who grieve as they do.


Carol Apple said...

I visited Ground Zero in November 2001 - I remember it was Veteran's Day weekend and I was on a rare trip to NYC with my Mom. Her company did an annual trip to NYC for a show every year and Mom had gotten me a ticket. They thought about cancelling the trip, but went through with it with the philosophy that the best thing to do was to keep living as normally as possible. Mom and I made a point to take a cab to the sight. There were not crowds, but there were lots of individuals and small groups just standing and grieving, looking at those jagged ruins we all remember before they leveled the ground. I'll never forget it.

Friend Grief said...

Carol -
I've been there several times now, first in the summer of 2005. It's changed so much since then, when there was still a hole in the ground. I'm sure it was a very raw, deeply sad moment for you to see it so soon after the attacks.