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Memorial Daze

03.03.2006 | SOCIETY

Yet another protest is raging over the World Trade Center Memorial. This one's about the planned underground location that the 9/11 victims families and co-workers claim disrespects their dead (as opposed to cemeteries, where underground is considered proper etiquette). In addition, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the Uniformed Firefighter's Association want their member's inscribed names segregated from those of the other, lesser victims.

It's no wonder the "design jury" for the project was sequestered for six months. I know I'd be wearing Groucho glasses and packing my bags for the Witness Protection Program if I were on that jury, which is still gamely trying to please everyone involved, an impossible task.

Though by far the largest and best funded New York memorial since Grant's Tomb, which was built in a time where you had to pose on a horse to even be considered memorial-worthy, the 9/11 isn't the only memorial conflict our city has seen in recent years.

The granite Flight 800 Memorial on the beach in Smith Point Long Island commemorating the 1996 crash was saved from beach erosion at the cost of millions of dollars. It has a gift shop, which some found tacky.

In 2001, residents of Far Rockaway protested the impromptu memorials dotting their streets and festooning their lawns wherever a piece of Flight 587 happened to land. Makeshift memorials on a construction fence rendered it a sacred site; protests forced the builder who'd erected it to delay tearing it down until after the crash's anniversary. Then they built a permanent memorial.

Only blocks from my house a teenager was gunned down by a "friend." His remaining friends protested, claiming their First Amendment rights had been violated, when the police took advantage of their attending his funeral to remove the sacred Corona Beer boxes and clear shower curtain memorial, so that others might use the sidewalk without being forced into the gutter.

Displays of flowers, candles, and teddy bears lynched to lampposts are all along Queens Boulevard, a.k.a. The Boulevard of Death, despite the shorter Northern Boulevard advocates claiming their thoroughfare has more victims per mile in attempts to steal the coveted title.

Legions of concerned citizens (now that these people are dead) flock to the scene of every crime; memorials are in place before the CRIME SCENE tape comes down.

Throw in the slave and Indian burial grounds, and pretty soon the entire City of New York will be considered a memorial, which will either cut down significantly on the living population, or raise already outrageous rents.

Gone are the days when people stoically mourned and went on with their lives, their pride refusing to let them parade their grief and exploit it for sympathy and/or millions of dollars to blow so they can go on the talk shows to warn others not to follow their path.

I live in constant fear that one day my own death will set these memorial forces into motion against my will. Therefore, being of sound mind and sound body, I offer the following:

My Living Memorial Will

If I am killed as the result of a natural disaster, an accident created by myself or by others, or through a deliberate human action, I request the following:

  1. That flowers, candles, teddy bears, etc. not be placed on the site of my demise.
  2. That no temporary or permanent memorial be placed or erected on any site other than my grave, including, but not limited to; my birthplace, my place of employment, my home, and/or that of my death.
  3. That my family continues living their lives in their chosen professions free from pressure to become professional mourners and/or publicly designated grief displayers, either full time, or on an annual anniversary basis.
  4. That my family be permitted the right to experience joy despite my demise, and that their continued personal growth, lives, and accomplishments be considered my true memorial and tribute.
  5. I wish to be remembered for my life, not my death, for how I lived, not how I died, for who I was, not my final victimization.
  6. In lieu of monuments, tributes, or flowers, I request that any funds collected in my name be used to improve the lives of the living. If you'd like to be secure in the knowledge I'm resting in peace, correct the conditions that killed me.

About the Author
Beth Birnbaum, who writes for Free Inquiry magazine, among others, has just finished a novel, SoundBite Religion.
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