September 7, 2009
A Beau Geste: the 9/11 Tear Drop Memorial
It's a tough world out there, an ugly world... even brutal at times. Things happen -- wars, famine, storms, terror, alphabet soup illnesses ala H1N1, society-destroying debt, political systems in need of rehabilitation. We're buffeted on the right and pummeled on the left and too often take it on the chin. Only occasionally does the world community engage cooperatively to aid or ameliorate the effects of these "bad things". And even less frequent are enduring beaux gestes -- beautiful, noble gestures, often in futile causes. Gestures that are offered without solicitation to honor those persons, those peoples impacted by said trauma. This epistle, Beau Geste, touches on 9/11 and a gracious gesture that occurred years later that is associated with America's tragedy. We'll set the table with care leading to the revelation of this beau geste we speak of.
If you have tears, prepare to shed them now
- William Shakespeare
One of the most expressive human gestures is the tear. Tears cover the full range of human expression - unmitigated sorrow, unbridled joy, burdensome frustration, unburdened relief, burning anger, contented contemplation. Tears shed from sharing these emotions with the one experiencing them gain a symbolism. Tears carry a cry for relief and tears answer back, "You are not alone, I am here." The tear, the symbol, becomes a voice of empathy. Words intrude.
Which among us doesn't remember where they were on 9/11? Who could not recall their emotions as a witness to the horror of those thousands dying before our eyes? I was at home that morning and I remember the call from my wife about a plane hitting a Trade Center Tower. She had just found out herself and couldn't elaborate. She had to go. I turn on the television expecting a Piper Cub or an executive's Lear Jet to have its tail protruding from the side of one of towers, maybe a little smoke wafting upwards. If only....
I came in on a scene from a disaster movie. There was no time to comprehend the scope of what the eye was beholding. The broadcast's camera was zoomed in on telephoto, very tight (no sky was showing in the shot) and clearly up high on the south tower. Smoke was shooting out from every window and clinging like a shroud to the skin of the skyscraper as it flew upward. A few arms could be seen waving desperately through the smothering smoke. This is the only part of the disaster I was able to take in in about a 30 second span. I had no idea at this point that both towers had been struck.
And then something visually discombobulating took place: the smoke appeared to accelerate at a greater speed while the camera was panning upward with it. Only... the white exterior of the building looked like it was shifting imperceptibly, maybe even some small chunks coming off. It was hard to be certain with the smoke's increased billowing.
And then the camera cut to a normal view from ground level. The upper levels of the building were racing downward into the cauldron of rising smoke... and then the roof cleared the strike line from whence the fire and smoke bellowed and was pan-caking on the levels below. Thousands perishing in that singular moment. Breath rushed out of me as if the tower was collapsing in my chest. I could only utter, "Oh, my God," and sob. This was a plea - not an epithet - and I could utter no more. In the seconds it took the Trade Tower to buckle tears were speaking for a broken heart where lips failed. Too soon this soul crushing scene was repeated.
This column is composed to illuminate a beau geste given to honor our brothers and sisters lost on 9/11. This is written three years after the consecration of an august gesture that I had not heard of and it seems many others as well -- the Tear Drop Memorial, Russia's gift to the United States on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. The source of this ignorance will be dealt with in a moment.
The link to the 9/11 monument site is provided above so there will be only a brief comment on the Memorial itself and its artist. The Tear Drop Memorial was created by Georgian/Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli and is officially titled "To the Struggle Against World Terrorism" or "The Memorial at Harbor View Park". The monument is located at The Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, New Jersey, and is lined up to look upon the Statue of Liberty. The persons most likely to see it would be those coming into the harbor by boat.
The monolithic block of vertical, earth-colored stone is over 100 feet high. It appears rent in the center from top to bottom and in the gap is a 40 foot, four ton nickel-plated tear drop. The base of the monument is a multi-faceted onyx pedestal inscribed with the names of all of those that perished on 9-11-01, from Flight 93 in Pennsylvania to the Pentagon to the twin Trade Towers.
The symbolisms of this touching and costly gesture are as profound as those of our adopted First Lady, the Statue of Liberty. The Tear Drop and the Russian people deserve, in spite of whatever else they are, a commensurate acknowledgment of this moving symbol of sympathy. It's a crime that even three years later the Russian's simpatico for our losses has not been widely recognized by America and her leaders.
Symbolism is often an empty gesture, especially spoken symbolism. The mainstream media (MSM) and our leaders are enamored with symbolic speech. Listen the next time there is a tragedy or terrorist attack somewhere in the world. Bombastic bloviation becomes the word of the day: "We condemn this devastation, tragedy, heinous attack on freedom, this cowardliness!" the leaders bellow. Meanwhile, little to nothing is done other than more rattling of their saber tongues. The futility of this breed of so-called "beau geste" is not the tragedy or suffering being spoken of but the words themselves. The word fades as quickly as an echo if action is not following.
Beaux gestes can come in the form of a memorial. Memorials are perpetual reminders to those impacted or remain that, as was coined of an iconic D-Day photo - "To Remember"- we will not forget. A symbol reaches across the language divide. Monuments are universal and often readily grasped by all peoples of all ages. If a picture is worth a thousand words then a symbol 10,000. A beau geste? Priceless.
This is where we drop the hammer on the "lack of awareness" about the Tear Drop and those responsible -- the MSM. Here are some observations from researching the Tear Drop Memorial.
Until just this late spring I'd had no idea that such a memorial existed. Despite many American Thinker writers and readers disdain for the MSM it's clear that many of us still keep an eye, critical, on their doings and reporting. I was paying attention in 2006 on the 5th anniversary of 9/11, both to print and broadcast media. I'm not oblivious. The Russian people's Tear Drop beau geste on our own soil escaped my awareness. When even "60 Minutes" Andy Rooney, a man whose finger is often on the national pulse, says, "The Teardrop Memorial has gone mostly unrecognized," then you know this is so. The Tear Drop Memorial just plain was not given national coverage.
Just after discovering that such a memorial existed, I was sent a link by another American Thinker reader to a web site that provided video of the memorial in Power Point (the music has since been removed). This presentation was the most touching introduction to the Tear Drop Memorial that I could imagine. It was accompanied by a composition of "Amazing Grace." Once informed I researched the memorial and read the comment strings on many sites. It was grossly evident that a large percentage of other citizens were equally unaware, both at the time of the anniversary and even still today.
If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time - a tremendous whack.
- Winston Churchill
Here's the great rebuke that the MSM begs for by their manipulation of what constitutes "news" and thus of what we are informed of or not -- searching the Tear Drop Memorial or Zurab Tsereteli gives over three pages of hits to "fact or fiction" type dot com sites such as snopes, urbanlegends, and hoax-slayer right up front. Search results are often ordered by a current hit count and the fact that "hoax or not?" sites even deal with the Tear Drop, let alone predominate, is an indictment of the MSM. Back in September of '06 there may have been some reporting of the tribute from Russia but the fact that myriads of believe-it-or-not sites like these are even dealing with the suspicion that this memorial could be an internet fraud indicates a vacuum of factual information and reporting.
In many forums that have nascently begun to mention the Tear Drop Memorial fellow Americans lament the lack, or even absence, of press regarding this tribute. They are agitated that they have not had any exposure to this human, touching gesture by the Russian people. For every one comment saying they knew of the memorial there were 50 that plead ignorance. One commenter replied that there had been some coverage in '06 (i.e. The New York Times, that bastion of journalistic integrity, as well as a few others). Someone responded, "Yes, but the memorial does not appear in volume. It definitely did not receive the national attention it merited". This is nailing the definition of beau geste -- "beautiful, noble gestures ... often futile". With our press it's no wonder The Tear Drop Memorial is the epitome of a beau geste.
And that's the crux of the issue -- we get months of coverage on the Obama's choice of pup. The MSM jumps on Carrie Prejean, who carefully and respectfully replied to a baited question about what constitutes "marriage" while participating in a national beauty pageant. We're force-fed a tsunami of Michael Jackson saturation at his passing. There was ample coverage of Obama's Beerfest '09 with Harvard Professor Skip "Cry Racism" Gates and Officer Crowley.
9/11 is the touchstone of our generation just as much as Pearl Harbor was for our grandparents. And yet there has not been a proportionate acknowledging of the beauty and appropriateness of this monumental symbol indicating fidelity with America and our loss of life and the struggle against terrorism. As a matter of fact, compared to the press the Tear Drop Memorial has ever received, our own squabbling, flailing efforts years later to even agree on an appropriate memorial to the 9/11 events, let alone actually constructing a symbol to those lost, is the equivalent of War and Peace. The shame.
We have not dealt with the aspects of integrity, and irony, in the offering of this memorial by a nation that has been our opponent for decades and has dogmas that are in conflict with those upon which America was founded. That's not for here. What is damning is that by the MSM not giving the memorial its due we have not even had a national discussion on the merits of the memorial or possible motives of its offering by the Russians.
There are articles that could be written about the injustice and unprofessionalism of the MSM on just this matter alone.
Let's leave it at this -- anecdotal as it may be, the matter at hand is a prototypical example of why traditional print and media news sources are losing broad influence. They are like salt that has lost its savor -- worthy to be cast underfoot and trodden upon. The MSM jettisoned integrity years ago when it transmogrified into a perversion of entertainment and activism. As a result the press has a blind spot the size of the Titanic and resembles a blind-leading-the-blind ditch party - the more the merrier!
Indeed, it appears that conservative sites such as American Thinker, Rush 24/7, and The Drudge Report, et al, are gaining traction as legitimate sources of information and relevancy. No wonder the MSM despises and assaults the internet and non-traditional sources of news -- they're being beaten at their own game by the upstarts. The new outlets for news are actually reporting on what is newsworthy, including 100 foot high monoliths on the shores of New York harbor. Yes, there are difficulties with wild hairs using the cover of internet journalism (read "blogs" and undisciplined arm-chair "research") but the freedom to discover, report, and editorialize facts and events has always been an unkempt, messy business... sort of like democracy. Nothing new under the sun -- we've always had to bring a shovel to the information mountain to mine for the golden nuggets of truth.
The irony is that it is they, the ensconced journalistic Olympians, who have forced matters of journalism into seeming partisanship by their manipulation of published news, facts, and, per our Tear Drop Memorial non-reporting, events. It is the MSM that has become partisan and, through a Freudian slip known as transference, project their guilt onto others. The mainstream propagandist's sins come by way of commission and omission. We should not let up on the press back against the manipulators of news.
How does a nation full of print and broadcast media miss a 175+ ton monolith that stares Lady Liberty in the face? Fairness Doctrines indeed!
There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil practice, whether in politics, in business, or in social life. I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every man who, on the platform, or in book, magazine or newspaper, with merciless severity makes such attack, provided always that he in his turn remembers that the attack is of use only if it is absolutely truthful.
- Theodore Roosevelt
Troy "Freeman" Nelson is an occasional contributor at AT including stirring the waters in the forum seats. He has a background in finance and powersports.