Ten years after 9-11, still considered sacred ground, the place where nearly 3,000 Americans were killed, the site of a magnificent waterfall memorial and massive construction of what will be New York's tallest building is underway, we refer to the area as "Ground Zero."
After a decade though, is it really still fair and safe to call this spot that name? In a world that has been through the Bush presidency and now into the Obama presidency, the fall Saddam in Iraq, the death of Bin Laden, the earthquakes in Japan, the Arab Spring, and so many significant global events? I don't need to list global events, you get the idea. A lot has happened since that terrible day, and we as Americans and citizens of the globe have changed a lot since then. Remember when 9-11 occurred how devastated we were? It was even asked if we would be able to laugh again. Letterman couldn't tell a joke, and had guests on to somberly discuss this new world where comedy might not survive.
The Apple.com web site I remember, instead of promoting the newest thinnest iPad, iPod, iWhatever had a simple: "Our thoughts are with those who were affected by the tragic events this week." and a link to The American Red Cross. What's on the Apple.com main page today? "The new, faster, Macbook Air. The ultimate everday notebook." It goes on to list more stats, but clearly Apple, and the world has moved on. We no longer live day in and day out thinking about 9-11. We may not forget, but we don't dwell. Societies move forward, and commerce in America, in even our fury of political division and economic recession/depression continues to thrive. We get on with it, and go back to business as usual.
So, as we approach this anniversary, coming up in just a few days now, I wonder if "Ground Zero" is even the right term anymore? Of course to those that lost loved ones that day, the place will always hold significance. In the same way any site of a tragedy holds significance for anyone who lost of a loved in a traumatic event, be it a flood, or an earthquake, or a shooting.
But, for all the sensitivity of the region, for all the fears of an Islamic Cultural Center, Park51 a couple blocks away, for all the intense emotions about this spot, I find this to most interesting. No one has really mentioned that the site, the very site itself is actually turning into a huge, enormous, gigantic profit, money-making, capitalist office complex. Freedom Tower is not a memorial. There is one sandwiched between the office buildings, but the site is mostly a huge office complex. While the biggest of these buildings is actually not officially being called Freedom Tower anymore, rather One World Trade Center - the building is not being erected a symbol of respect to those that died. It is a for-profit building. People are excited to start makin' moola' again down there. That's the situation. It's strange, I find,that in all the protests against the Park51 "Ground Zero Mosque," the actual building of a huge, towering symbol of cold corporate capitalism, literally right on the grave site of those that died doesn't seem to bother anyone. Indeed isn't THAT the true spot that should be respected if we are to say there is a "Ground Zero?" Wouldn't that actual place next to the two pools be a place that should be office-complex free? A park, perhaps, or ironically a community center maybe? Something that would actually be of benefit to people in Lower Manhattan in a non-profit beneficial way, to show respect and dedication to those that died?
To me the fact that building in that spot went virtually unquestioned from day one is 9-11's lost controversy. We've screamed and argued over the Islamic Community Center two blocks away, over weird conspiracies of how the event happened, over Muslims and mosques across the country, the two resulting wars and their necessity, intrusive airport security: Everything one could possibly argue about in a post-9-11 world, except for the one thing that to me sticks out (literally almost two thousand feet off the ground) perhaps more obviously as an offensive thing than anything else?
Why are they building a towering, gargantuan office building there, at what is supposed to be sacred ground? Why is that not a park, and a memorial instead? Isn't that the only, truly respectful thing to do? Because for all the yelling and screaming over respecting Ground Zero it would seem to me that from a government/city development point of view there is no Ground Zero. You don't build shopping malls on graveyards.