Friday, May 10, 2013

The New Monument at Ground Zero, A Decade Late

Ground Zero has a new monument to replace the ones that Islamic jihadists destroyed on that clear Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001, and a spire has just been hoisted to signify the building's final height. CNN reports:

The spire brings the iconic building to a height of 1,776 feet -- an allusion to the year the United States declared its independence. It also makes the building the tallest in the Western Hemisphere and the third-tallest in the world.

The company developing the building in partnership with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey confirmed the installation.

While the building still has significant construction before its scheduled 2014 opening, the installation brought cheers from New Yorkers, and from people around the country.

"NYC is back ... America is back!" Twitter userTheJeffSullivan posted to the social networking site.

Twitter user mattnewby04 called it a "very powerful moment to see the figurative rebuilding of NYC."

Only eleven and a half years later, eh? While I love the idea of an edifice taller than the World Trade Towers and appreciate the effort to imbue its height with American symbolism, you'll have to forgive me for not finding this a marvelous achievement.  It's not necessarily that the building itself is underwhelming, it's more a matter of the timing.  As Mark Steyn writes in After America:

The most eloquent statement about America in the 21st century is Ground Zero in the years after. 9/11 was something our enemies did to us. The hole in the ground a decade later is something we did to ourselves.


The Empire State Building, then the tallest in the world, was put up in 18 months during a depression – because the head of General Motors wanted to show the head of Chrysler that he could build something that went higher than the Chrysler Building. Three-quarters of a century later, the biggest thing either man's successor had created was a mountain of unsustainable losses – and both GM and Chrysler were now owned and controlled by government and unions.


In the decade after 9/11, China (which America still thinks of as a cheap assembly plant for your local KrappiMart) built the Three Gorges Dam, the largest electricity-generating plant in the world. Dubai, a mere sub-jurisdiction of the United Arab Emirates, put up the world's tallest building and built a Busby Berkeley geometric kaleidoscope of offshore artificial islands. Brazil, an emerging economic power, began diverting the Sao Francisco river to create some 400 miles of canals to irrigate its parched north-east. But the hyperpower can't put up a building.

Thirteen years after the towers fell, a new building will take its place. Even with all the symbolism meant by this construction and the pride Americans now seem to take in it, I fear that it's just too little, too late for it to mean a damn thing to the rest of the world which recognizes how far we've fallen from the zenith of American greatness.

William Sullivan