Monday, June 8, 2009

Spontaneous Human Expression

Visiting the site of the World Trade Center is an experience in the extremes of collective human expression. In the gaping hole you see the violence and hatred of a small group of people, but in the memorials you can also read of the tremendous support and love of a nation. And while that contrast has been touched upon already by many commentators, there is another that I found even more fascinating. In Saint Paul's Chapel, right across the street from the former towers, reside the remains of the shrines, memorials, and mementos that flooded the site following 9/11. These objects documenting human grief, anger, and confusion were created spontaneously, by people from all over the country and the world. Some are incredibly unique; some fall into common tropes. But they occurred immediately, honestly, and they served the cathartic need of those who created them.

Remnants from the fence in front of the chapel

Paper Cranes

In contrast, the "official" memorial for 9/11 has taken nearly 8 years to even get a plan together, and has barely started construction. Perhaps it's because billions of dollars as well as politicians' careers are on the line. Or perhaps it's simply because one object cannot encompass the entirety of the world's emotions. Whatever the reason the official memorial is taking so long, I'm glad Saint Paul's Chapel could provide a space for a more grass-roots and diverse response.

1 comment:

MF Connection said...

Right on. The chapel shows that love and life-affirming values will live on as long as human life survives. I am reminded of the similar outpouring of offerings in London after the death of Princess Di.