“Anniversaries and their Curses” was posted on January 25 where we discussed the varying impacts they can have on individuals and publics alike. By their regular nature they keep their contents ‘alive’ whether we like it or not. It is no accident that bouts of depression are so often experienced by people, annually, on the anniversary of some significant death or trauma.
The article concluded with an open reference to the ‘lasting’ impact of 9/11. “Will it ever end?” I wondered. Since writing that I came across an article I had forgotten, named ‘The Last Column’ by Hal Foster, Professor of Art and Archaelogy at Princeton University. I want to quote from it without further comment apart from this sincere acknowledgement of Foster’s work. For those keen to read more see London Review of Books, no 17, 8 September 2011.
“There is a hangar at JFK Airport – Hangar 17 – where, until recently, about 1200 pieces of steel and other objects from the World Trade Center site were warehoused — selected as tokens of 9/11 — to be dispersed to memorials around the US, foremost the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero (occupying about half of the 16-acre WTC site, and consisting of two large waterfalls and reflecting pools on the footprints of the towers) which opens on the tenth anniversary of the event—– In all, 1.8 million tons of rubble and debris were removed.
(Many) agree: ‘They are something more than beautiful. They are sacred’.
‘These events are unspeakable (I wrote October 4, 2001 in LRB) but they shouldn’t be left in the oppressive state of the sublime’. Yet that is where they were immediately put and have since remained. For Americans the WTC became the world trauma center, and we were likely to fix on the tragedy as traumatists as we were to work through it as mourners. Very quickly that trauma was turned into support for the ‘War on Terror’ – don’t victims, the ‘lex talionos’ of trauma runs, have the right to be perpetrators?
In this light the talk of relics and icons, and the appearance of cross and stars, is not so benign, for here the experience of the sublime and the traumatic is all but captured by the category of the sacred. Early on, Ground Zero was described as ‘hallowed ground’, and to this day 9/11 is often treated as an event that cannot be assimilated, which passes all human understanding. This trope tends to render the historical event a theological one—- but also the theocratic bent of more than a few political leaders and presidential leaders. —
The struggle for the American soul continues at ground Zero.”
Hal Foster’s article is beautiful and chilling. Again I thank him.
We all will hear more from 9/11. Its presence for the future is unfortunately ensured.
But anniversaries can go anywhere, as I will illustrate in my next blog, “Cool Anniversaries” appearing on