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FLIGHT 93 MEMORIAL: FIGHTING BACK

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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 14, 2005 10:04 AM

My latest column, “Monumental surrender,” on the Flight 93 Memorial controversy, bubbling in the blogosphere for nearly a week, is up:

War memorials should memorialize war. If you want peace and understanding and healing and good will toward all, go build Kabbalah centers…

…A proper war memorial stirs to anger and action. We all remember passenger Todd Beamer’s last heard words as he and his fellow Americans prepared to take back the plane from al Qaeda’s killers, don’t we?

No, the phrase wasn’t “Let’s meditate.” It was “Let’s roll.”

I focus not only on the use of the red crescent, but also the overall tone and intent of architect Paul Murdoch’s design:

Funded with a mix of public money and private cash (including a $500,000 grant from Teresa Heinz’s far left Heinz Endowments), the winning design, titled the “Crescent of Embrace,” features a grove of maple trees ringing the crash site in the shape of an unmistakable red crescent. The crescent, New York University Middle East Studies professor Bernard Haykel told the Johnstown, Pa., Tribune-Democrat, “is the symbol of ritual and religious life for Muslims.”

Some design contest jury members reportedly raised concerns about the jarring symbol of the hijackers’ faith implanted on the hallowed ground where the passengers of Flight 93 were murdered. But their recommendations to change the name of the memorial (to “Arc of Embrace,” or some such whitewashing) were ignored. Memorial architect Paul Murdoch, whose firm emphasizes “environmental responsibility and sustainability,” did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment, but he did emphasize to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that his creation was about “healing” and “contemplation.” He is also proud of his idea to hang a bunch of wind chimes in a tall tower at the site as a “gesture of healing and bonding.”

Wind chimes? Hey, why not add pinwheels and smiley face stickers and Care Bears while we’re at it, too?

Let’s set aside the utter boneheaded-ness of using a symbol that, inadvertently or not, commemorates the killers’ faith instead of the victims’ revolt. The soft-and-fuzzy memorial design of “Crescent of Embrace” still does injustice to the steely courage of the Flight 93’s passengers and crew. It evokes the defeatism embodied by those behind a similar move to turn the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero in New York City into a pacifist guilt complex.

This is no way to fight a war. Or to remember those who have died fighting it.

Mark Steyn weighs in on Flight 93, re-hijacked:

If [architect Paul] Murdoch sincerely believes in a “crescent of embrace”, let him build one – at the headquarters of a “moderate” Islamic lobby group, or in the parking lot of your wackier colleges. To impose it on Flight 93 – to, in effect, hijack those passengers a second time – is an abomination. Flight 93 is about what happens when you understand that some things can’t be embraced.

The New York Sun editorializes:

We went to the architect’s Web site, where some images of the design are posted. We kept looking for an American flag or some patriotic symbol and just couldn’t find any. Perhaps we missed it. We hope so. The revolt on Flight 93 is going to go down in American history as one of the great moments, and “Let’s roll” is going to rank with the retort that General McAuliffe, surrounded by the enemy en route to Bastogne, delivered to the Nazi demand for surrender, “Nuts.”

There is, incidentally, a museum in Bastogne known as the “Nuts Museum,” a modest place commemorating the spirit of General McAuliffe’s soldiers. Imagine if it had been built in, say, the shape of the German eagle…

…The right thing for the Park Service to do would be to take its time and think this through. If the memorial is purely a private matter, it can do whatever it wants. But if it is a public site and involves public money and an agency like the Park Service is involved, then the American people deserve to have a say in the decision of how the heroes of Flight 93 are memorialized.

Rep. Tom Tancredo has sent a letter to the National Park Service. The AP reports that the memorial must be approved by not only the NPS director, but also the Secretary of the Interior Department.

Via LGF, CAIR has already mobilized in defense of the memorial:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 /PRNewswire/ — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today dismissed Rep. Tom Tancredo’s (R-CO) comments on the design of a memorial to those aboard a plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9/11 as a cynical political ploy designed to gain national attention…

A “plane that crashed?!” That’s a rather telling description of the flight that fought back against Islamist terrorists. A “plane that crashed?” No, CAIR, this is “a plane that crashed.” Flight 93 didn’t just “crash.” It was hijacked by al Qaeda followers under the banner of the red crescent, the very same symbol that may soon be implanted at the Islamists’ crime scene outside Shanksville, Pa. It crashed there because brave men and women forced the hijackers’ hands and refused to allow the terrorists to complete their deadly mission in Washington, D.C.

Never, never forget.

***
The next step for those wishing to object to the memorial design–partially funded with your tax dollars, and wholly belonging to all of us–is to contact Interior Department Secretary Gale Norton, who along with Congress, has final approval authority over the design.

Her e-mail address is gale_norton@ios.doi.gov.

Her phone: 202 208-7351.

Her mailing address: Department of Interior 1849 C St, NW, Washington DC 20240.

1035am EDT Update: A reader says Interior doesn’t want to take calls about the design and is directing citizens to an out-of-order NPS number. Nice. Meantime, here are Gale Norton’s own words about what the memorial should do:

“As I look around this field, there is little that we can do or say or build that can be equal to the courage and sacrifice of the heroes who died on Flight 93, two years ago today,” Norton said. “Our hearts tell of a need to honor and memorialize their heroism and to distinguish and identify the importance of this site and what happened here for future generations.”

1100am EDT update Several readers also inform me that the fax number for the NPS Superintendent of the Flight 93 Memorial is not working. Here’s other contact info:

National Park Service
109 West Main Street, Suite 104
Somerset, PA 15501-2035

Superintendent – Flight 93 NMEM
(814) 443-4557

And fyi, Public Law No: 107-226 is the law that established the Flight 93 Memorial. Its main sponsor was Rep. John Murtha, R D-Pa. Contact info for Rep. Murtha here.

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Captain Ed
sums it all up:

This memorial offends on multiple levels, again whether the offense was intentional or not. It simply does not meet the occasion. While the verdict of the families should have some weight in the approval process, the entire point of this memorial is the national implications of the event, which is why the government will run the memorial and is in charge of its construction and maintenance. A great many of us do not want the Islamic symbolism as a centerpiece for the Flight 93 memorial, but more importantly, we want a memorial that evokes the courageous and inspiring example that they provided with their last breath of life. They didn’t teach us to sit around and do nothing, and a memorial that encourages that simply gets it wrong.

If you haven’t yet seen the other finalists’ designs, you should. My favorite is “Disturbed Harmony,” which pays stark and moving homage to the bravery and heroism of the passengers and crew of Flight 93. It’s a memorial with strength and spine.

***
Previous:

(Dis)honoring the flight that fought back
Flight 93 memorial: Seeing is believing
Flight 93 memorial: controversy

Technorati: Flight 93 memorial

9/14 840pm EDT update: The design will be altered.

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