Published  28/09/2001

Surviving fragment


Philippe de Montebello, the Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York has emerged as one of the strongest supporters of the idea that a monument should be created with the surviving fragment of one wall of the World Trade Center. In his own words, ‘Though tilted slightly, it somehow survived, emerging from the fire and smoke — inexplicably durable, still pointing to the heavens and now a fitting, realistic and moving monument to those who died there. Already an icon, it should stand forever as a sculptural memorial, incorporated into whatever other structures or landscapes are chosen’.

De Montebello cites Coventry Cathedral’s remnants from the blitz as one example that has worked. He recognises that the Ground Zero fragment may need to be dismantled first, but that consideration should be duly given to ‘preserving and re-installing this imposing vestige’. Indeed, it is imposing (if it still stands). More authoritatively, de Montebello adds ‘a relic of destruction, it could become a testament to renewal. As a symbol of survival, it is already in its own way, a masterpiece, and so it should remain’. The dynamic of the twisted fragment of wall, up to 14 storeys and over 120 feet high, does indeed provide a powerful and moving frozen image of the moment of collapse and consequent death of thousands from the terrorist attack.

Amidst the clamour of many for various memorial solutions, such as would embellish the now consecrated site, almost all are reconcilable with de Montebello’s simple but utterly appropriate request for the fragment to be preserved. Even the new construction of replacement skyscrapers can work with this. What is important is that the proposals are ratified without delay. A long, argued debate could not assist more in the grieving process, than a clear and decisive enactment of De Montebello’s proposal. Not only are the victims of this holocaust being commemorated, but at the same time those amongst their rescue workers, died and wounded, and the incredible courage of those among the fire and rescue teams who survived themselves. Dramatically, de Montebello’s fragment stands to commemorate not only the office workers and service staff within the building, but those who sought to rescue them, equally.

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