As any first-grader knows, an icon is a symbol that stands for something — whether on a computer desktop or in a World Trade Center. There are a number of different interpretations of what the Freedom Tower stands for, but all agree on what the massive sculpture that survived 9/11 stands for: The triumph over hell-on-earth. That the “Sphere in the Fountain” was not flattened is even more miraculous than the survival of the nearby St. Paul’s. The battered relic is inspiring, ennobling, astonishing, and true.
Now that the Sphere, and presumably the eternal flame that was lit on September 11, 2002, are being evicted from Battery Park, why haven’t the the big three papers and the television stations put a national spotlight on this story? Why isn’t it a cause celebre? The Port Authority head promised on May 11th an announcement the following week on where the Sphere was going — but the deadline he set came and went.
Why hasn’t “60 Minutes” already pounced on such a disturbing screw-up? If something that actually makes sense can be said for the status quo, let the people hear it. What the people who will be coming from all over the country would want to see at the memorial they are funding should matter. Especially since the memorial was renamed the “Nation 9/11 Memorial and Museum” and a bill was introduced in Congress last September that would take over the 8 acres and pay $20 million a year towards its $60 million operating costs — which would mean that the museum would still need to charge admission.
The only reason that the complex cost a billion dollars to build and will cost $60 million and counting to operate is because it was snatched out the hands of the people by a “memorial jury” with no common sense. And now, the only reason officials can come up with for excluding the Sphere from the Memorial plaza is that it is not part of the design. So what? Putting the names around the top of the waterfalls wasn’t part of the “design” either — 9/11 family members had to sleep out on the sidewalk for three weeks in the winter of 2006, to get the designer to bring the names to ground level.
Who are these people who think they can call the shots and present their preposterous bill, while the public genuflects to their good taste? It would cost no more, probably less, to move the Sphere, and its eternal flame, to the spot where it belongs, close to where it originally stood, than to move it anywhere else. And as the picture above makes clear, there certainly is enough room for it. But by far, most important of all, it would be a source of inspiration and gratitude for a battered, but resolute nation.
The New York Post’s Steve Cuozzo — the WTC project’s cheerleader-in-chief — described the Freedom Tower’s new base as “a shimmering, richly textured facade on four sides of glass, stainless steel and aluminum.” What a perfect description of the whole project — a richly textured facade that hides the lightless, lifeless, concrete bunker just below the surface. Nice try, but no cigar.