A Memorial Designed Eventually to Fall

farm 911 memorial

I haven’t spent much time cataloguing 9-11 memorials, but by far my favorite sits on the edge of an old farm in Connecticut. Its relative seclusion and rough materials suggest that the memorial was not conceived for broad and endless consumption so much as to express the needs of a maker while the shock of the attacks was still new and amorphous but massive. The violence has penetrated even this bucolic pasture.

The towers themselves appear to be blocks of granite, maybe curbstone never needed before. Organic in origin yet reshaped coarsely by man, the stones portend the very solidity of existence will be struck. A black rag suggests both the smoke in New York and the mourning of the memorialist. The plane swooping in from the tree branch can be both the commercial airliners used as the weapons as well as the military jets sent aloft in defense. The metal rod on the right tower clearly mimics the antennae atop the World Trade Center, but it is also so disproportionately long it seems a message being sent into heaven or the news of the destruction being broadcast into every home.

Indeed, the whole structure on its surface appears as basic mimesis, but like a Brechtian actor or an ancient Egyptian painting, we are not supposed to forget it is representation rather than duplication. The memorial points; it does not recreate.

Finally, although the memorial sits relatively securely, it does not seem designed to last the ages. We can imagine the wire suspending the plane will snap or the branch will break under too much snow. Lichens and rust already overtake the materials. With a solid shove, the whole edifice could topple along with the wall on which it rests. The memorial had to last long enough to express its moment, which is not forever. When the structure falls, it is not that we will forget, but that the past will have taken a more stable shape in our lives and the personal memorial of expression will have done its work.