Thursday, March 09, 2006

WTC site and normality

I've been thinking about the World Trade Center site, the events of 9/11, and how they are viewed by people. 9/11 was of course an exceptional event, way outside our day-to-day lives, with terrific horror and heroism. The year after that day was also remarkable. The cleanup of the site was completed much faster than expected, for less money than was predicted, with fantastic organization and cooperation by all concerned, and astoundingly, with no fatalities among the cleanup crew. Truely exceptional, in the sense that it was an exception to the way we expect things to go.

It's been 4 1/2 years now, and, well, things are very different. Here's what Curbed is linking to today, in a posting called "WTC Chaos Update: The Times That Numb Men's Souls":
1) Oh ho, look at that—Larry blinked! Developer Silverstein for first time doesn't rule out surrendering building sites 3 and 4 to NYC. [NYPost]
2) Tunnel to funnel folks from New Jersey into city might be key in Silverstein/City negotiations. LES club owners rejoice. [NYSun]
3) Victims' families continue to protest subterranean memorial design a week after city declared the issue moot. Brace yourself: it's vigil time. [Gothamist; Newsday]
4) Downtown arts groups receive $27 million federal grant—almost enough to buy one of Calatrava's penthouses. [NYTimes]
5) SHOCK POLL: Most NY'ers think Ground Zero situation is FUBAR. No shit? [Crain's]
So, we've got arguments among property owners, developers, and politicians, ongoing struggles about what the memorial's going to look like, ongoing fights over money, and a survey that says that only 10% of NYC residents think the reconstruction is going well. (And those people are, well, wrong.) This is not an exceptional state of affairs. In fact, it's safe to say that this a completely normal state of affairs in this country and this city. So, we've got an event and a site that in the course of a few short years has gone from perhaps the definition of an exceptional event, to one that is now the quintessential typical state of affairs. And who said irony was dead?

I wonder, as well, if the horrific normality of the current situation has in some sense infected our views of the horrific exceptional nature of 9/11 itself? Do we view 9/11 as less of an iconic event because the reconstruction has been such a snafu? I've asked a few New Yorkers who were here on 9/11 about this, and they do seem to have at least some sympathy for this view. At least, I haven't been beaten up yet... Conversely, I also wonder if people far outside of New York City might view 9/11 even more iconic and exceptional than New Yorkers, simply because the New York Post doesn't tell them every day how badly the reconstruction process is going? What do you think?



At 8:19 PM, Blogger duluoz cats said...

Okay, I'll bite ...

1. With regard to an exceptional event devolving into a quintessential state of of affairs, I agree that the current remains of the WTC site is a perfect case study. And sadly, it doesn't surprise me in the least. I would go even further, on a personal level, and say, that change took place the minute it became about American flags, heroes, and the rest of the country. It infuriated me then and still does.

2. Do I think 9/11 the day/the event/the exception (however best to describe it) is less of an iconic event? No. But, that's because I think considering the event itself as ever having been iconic, is to diminish its power as an exception. Do I think the aftermath became iconic? Yes, we had no choice (those damn Post headlines, as you say). Before the last of the fires had burnt themselves out the site had become a symbol for all to manipulate.

3. That being said, as a NYer do I feel "the site" as it stands now is less iconic? Absolutely not. It is only iconic at this point, "the site" has been transformed into something so remote from what took place that it embodies nothing. The only meaning left is in the memories of the event and the experience, and for the people who lost loved ones. The numbness wore off, Rudy is considered a pr*ck again, NYC bureaucracy took it back from the jingoists, and all is "right" in the world ... everything that surrounds it now has nothing to do with with what happened. NY cynics affirmed.

Who said irony was dead? A Canadian ...

At 12:45 PM, Blogger Harlan said...

Hi DC, thanks for biting! I like your clear distinction between an iconic event and an exceptional event, which I think adds a lot. And the essay about irony was interesting too...


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