- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2004

What kind of memorial should stand at Ground Zero? The finalists in the World Trade Center Memorial competition have left people noticeably dissatisfied with the options presented to them. The problem may be that the quest to be profound is sometimes mistaken for avoidance of the simple. Too many of the designs strive for a sophisticated way to convey a void, shortchanging the more obvious ways the memorial can affirm the transcendent.

A perpetual void would fail to capture the spirit of those who were touched most by September 11 — the victims, the survivors and the heroes, who fall into both categories. The nation as a whole, and New York most intensely, have been displaying symbols of this spirit — in the form of the American flag. During the Iranian hostage crisis of a quarter century ago, the symbol of choice was the yellow ribbon. That event could not be memorialized adequately without including the ribbon prominently.

Today — in fact, every day since the attacks — the flag has assumed the same prominence in responding to September 11. The flag adorns office buildings and apartment windows, bridges and tunnels, storefronts and ships, subway cars and automobiles. It has become part of the attire of men, women and children of all ages, no matter how formal or informal the occasion. The flag is, in short, the expression of who we are, and of what the terrorists tried to destroy. It would at once mark what was lost, and what the terrorists failed to destroy.

So why not make the symbol that already adorns virtually every makeshift memorial to September 11 a prominent part of the permanent memorial? In views of the Manhattan skyline from New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty and the twin towers complemented each other. The statue should not raise her torch to a void. Ideally, she should complement a soaring national memorial that is topped by the flag. From a supporting structure could fly a flag as large as a football field, visible from great distances. Garland Reynolds, a prolific Georgia architect who has developed proposals for a visitor center at Grant’s Tomb on the Upper West Side, has formulated one of probably many potential ways to achieve this. Mr. Reynolds has proposed a hologram on a field of mist projected from a supporting structure that allows light to pass through by day and accommodates cutting-edge visual technology to offer a breathtaking illumination by night.

However the idea is executed, the symbolism will be clear: Grand architecture and commerce have come and gone and returned again to this great city by way of liberty, determination and sacrifice. Here there is no distinction between facing the greatest challenge and attaining the greatest feat. With the flag, New York’s skyline can provide an enduring and affirmative answer to the question penned by Francis Scott Key:

“O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Frank J. Scaturro is a lawyer practicing in downtown Manhattan.

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