Monuments of Civil Religion

Authored by: Darryl Caterine

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Popular Culture

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415638661
eBook ISBN: 9781315724478
Adobe ISBN: 9781317531067


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There was never really a question that Ground Zero would receive some kind of memorial. Less than six months after September 11, 2001, New York Governor George Pataki, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced the building of an interim site. By April, 2003, a selection jury for a permanent memorial had been formed, and general guidelines were publicized for anyone wishing to submit a concept. These included “convey[ing] the magnitude of personal and physical loss at this location,” “evok[ing] the historical significance of the worldwide impact of September 11, 2001,” and “creat[ing] an original and powerful statement of enduring and universal symbolism” (Lower Manhattan Development Corporation n.d.: 19). In January of the following year the jury announced “Reflecting Absence,” designed by architects Michael Arad and Peter Walker, as the winner. Now known as the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, it is laid out like a park, complete with paths and swamp white elms, designed to allow visitors to take in the sheer absence of the Twin Towers that once stood here. The only reminders of their former existence are two, one-acre, granite-lined reflecting pools where the foundations of the skyscrapers once stood. These are continuously replenished by water which runs down their sides in gentle cascades. Etched into the stone barriers that surround them are the names of those who perished here in the September 11 attacks. The space is clean and relatively unadorned, allowing visitors to develop their own relationships both to the site and to the historical event that it marks.

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