September 11, 2018

"There is one small room on the main floor of the museum that is in fact not operated by the museum itself and is not available even to many of the families. "

"Tucked away off to the side, behind an unmarked door, it is overseen by the medical examiner's office. This is called the reflection room... [T]he official from the medical examiner's office can indeed let me through.... He points me around the corner to a cramped, dark space but does not follow. A box of tissues sits on a wooden bench and a family huddles silently looking through a window, about 4 feet by 5 feet. They leave almost instantly and I can now see what is through the window: aisles of dark-stained wood cabinets of rosewood or teak maybe, floor to ceiling, lit by small overhead spotlights. I let out a loud, sharp laugh. Inside these cabinets are the remains that, after nearly 13 years of the most rigorous testing known to man, have not been matched to the DNA of any of the victims.... [I]t's a picture window looking out at cabinetry, there isn't really anything else to think about. This chamber is meant to be a sanctuary, but I cannot ruminate about the arbitrary cruelty of the universe or lament the vagaries of loss and love because all there is to see are armoires packed with carefully labeled bags of flesh too ruined and desiccated even for science. My sister is among the many for whom there have been no remains recovered whatsoever. Vaporized. So there's no grave to visit, there never will be. Just this theatrically lit Ikea warehouse behind a panel of glass.... I don't know how to feel about the matter because to do so would require any of this making even a bit of sense.... Where is the right place to store pounds of unidentifiable human tissue so that future generations can pay their respects? I would not wish what's happened to my family on anyone, but I begrudgingly admire its infinite weirdness, still, after all this time....."

From "The Worst Day Of My Life Is Now New York's Hottest Tourist Attraction/Nearly 13 years after my sister's death, a reluctant Sunday visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, where public spectacle and private grief have a permanent home together" by Steve Kandell (Buzzfeed).

ADDED: "13 years" is a good clue this is a reprinted essay from 4 years ago. I didn't notice until Begonia prompted me in the comments:
This essay is 4 years old. The author read this same essay (or a similar one) aloud for This American Life episode earlier this year....
I reacted:
Every year there's a scramble for 9/11-appropriate things to run.

With 17 years of perspective, it's fantastic that we don't have other things that have equalled and overshadowed 9/11... which is what I felt was going to happen, 17 years ago.

56 comments:

LYNNDH said...

I cannot begin to comprehend the depths of emotion that he is feeling. Several years ago on a tour of WWI sites we visited the Ossuary in France when the remains of the unknowns are laid to rest. The site was overwhelming. The same as this site would be.

rhhardin said...

It's a cursed-whatever-you-do public ceremony stasis.

The insensitivity of sensitivity.

mockturtle said...

I got out my In Memoriam DVD to watch today.

Ann Althouse said...

Whoever designed that room and the room it looks out on and the window between them — they must have thought that this man who lost his sister would look through that window and arrive at the thought: She is there. Or: Her earthly remains are there.

gspencer said...

All caused by the votaries of Islam. "Devout Muslim" should give anyone, excepting another Muslim, the chills.

traditionalguy said...

And where were the passenger and crew bodies? Vaporized? No one believes it.

etienne said...

In a brazen attempt to re-write history, President Barack Obama in a speech on Friday blamed “the politics of resentment and paranoia,” which he said had found a home in the Republican Party, for:

“wild conspiracy theories – like those surrounding Benghazi.”

His Ambassador is dead, and he's still getting $208k a year for life, plus free postage."

Free Postage! Can you imagine?

Roughcoat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roughcoat said...

LYNNDH mentions an ossuary in France. I believe he/she may be referring to the ossuary at Verdun, which I have visited and which is still being added to a century after the battle was fought. It is a profoundly moving place, sacred and holy. When I visited some years ago, the guards were World War I veterans, ancient men bent and stooped, with white moustaches. If anyone spoke above a hushed whisper in their presence they would approach the speaker and lift an index finger at them and say, very sternly: "Silence! Silence s'il vous plaƮt!"

It was a profoundly moving place. People today don't understand how to visit such a place, how to react to what they see, how they should feel and process the emotions they are experiencing. They should feel reverence, awe, sorrow, pride, transcendence. But our culture is broken and debased and has failed to impart the sort of understanding that every culture and society since time immemorial passed down to its people as a matter of course.

A good way to re-learn this forgotten knowledge is read the works of the ancients. Start with the Iliad, the King James Bible, and the Bhagavad Gita in the Mahabharata.

etienne said...

traditionalguy said...And where were the passenger and crew bodies?

It's called Kinetic Energy.

Martha said...

Totally off topic but had to note—

Althouse gets a shout out today in a WSJ column by William McGurn: Playing the Civility Card.

“ Forgive those Americans who concur with blogger Ann Althouse that today’s pious demands for civility are often less about good manners than shutting down folks with an opposing views.”

The Crack Emcee said...

"Carefully labeled bags of flesh too ruined and desiccated even for science."

That's all we got in this society now.

Expat(ish) said...

Family lore (sorry, Senator Warren) that one of my uncles was lost at Pearl - and by lost they mean "got nobody."

Unfortunately that part of the family no longer talks to my part of the family due to a chicken dinner incident shortly after the War of Northern Aggression (IIRC) so I don't have details.

But I often think what it must have been like to have relative from rural Louisiana lost half a world away in Hawaii.

_XC

Bob Boyd said...

""Carefully labeled bags of flesh too ruined and desiccated even for science."

That's all we got in this society now."

Wow Crack. No one is going to get you mixed up with Norman Vincent Peale that's for sure.

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

Normal innocent people killed by radical Islamic supremacists.

Good thing the extremist left keep lecturing us on our Islamophobia.

SDaly said...

Ron Unz, a very smart and independent thinker, just wrote that he is coming around to the idea that Israel was behind 9/11. American Pravda: 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

Ann Althouse said...

Crack, are you saying that each of us is a "carefully labeled bag of flesh too ruined and desiccated even for science"?

That's poetic and visualizable.

The idea that a living person is a "bag of flesh" (the skin being the bag containing the rest) seems familiar.

I see Urban Dictionary has a definition for "fleshbag."

Is that the kind of idea you want attached to you?

Ann Althouse said...

@Martha

Thanks for the heads up!

Richard Dolan said...

Strange essay, as he tries to work out how to respond to packaged-and-shrink-wrapped artifacts of events and memories that he never quite figured out how to respond to in the first place. Feelings like that always resist the impulse to lock them up in safe and tidy boxes.

Meanwhile, everyone with an agenda will try to turn the whole thing to advantage, having no interest whatever in this guy's story for any other reason.

Begonia said...

This essay is 4 years old. The author read this same essay (or a similar one) aloud for This American Life episode earlier this year:

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/644/random-acts-of-history/act-two-7

n.n said...

Tear down all the "statues". Open one tomb for the Unknown Baby.

Ann Althouse said...

"This essay is 4 years old."

Oh!

Every year there's a scramble for 9/11-appropriate things to run.

With 17 years of perspective, it's fantastic that we don't have other things that have equalled and overshadowed 9/11... which is what I felt was going to happen, 17 years ago.

The Crack Emcee said...

Bob Boyd said...

"Wow Crack. No one is going to get you mixed up with Norman Vincent Peale that's for sure."

BWAAAAAAAAAA-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!!

No, I hope not. I'm not big on motivational speakers. We find people frozen on mountains because of them.

Ralph L said...

I thought those idiots were self-propelled.

The Crack Emcee said...

Ann Althouse said...

Crack, are you saying that each of us is a "carefully labeled bag of flesh too ruined and desiccated even for science"?

That's poetic and visualizable.


If you've ever worked in car sales, and seen that rag-tag group of criminals, lined up in the morning to do their necessary rah-rah rituals for royally fleecing the public, there is no other thought that could possibly come to mind. I have seen them literally dragged off the lot in handcuffs. Ripping off little old ladies, too tiny to see over the dashboard, much less put up a fight. If the Twin Towers had actually been upright car dealerships, the reaction might have been a lot different.

"The idea that a living person is a "bag of flesh" (the skin being the bag containing the rest) seems familiar."

A lot of military types are there. Comes with the training, I think.

"I see Urban Dictionary has a definition for "fleshbag.""

"Is that the kind of idea you want attached to you?"

Frank Zappa said legacy doesn't matter and, to be honest, no one (but you apparently) seems concerned with the real me no matter what I do - it's like they're already trying to gather evidence to construct a fictional me to condemn or something - so I stopped caring. Do your worst, World. I'm an artist, so, if being made into your entertainment is the best I can do, for now, that's cool:

I'll make something out of it eventually.

SDaly said...

"I'm not big on motivational speakers. We find people frozen on mountains because of them."

This is one of the best lines I've ever read.

Rabel said...

"The events of the day have already been exploited and sold in ways previously incomprehensible, why get mad at a commemorative T-shirt now?"

Buzzfeed features editor got a column out of it, so it's all good.

Curious George said...

"With 17 years of perspective, it's fantastic that we don't have other things that have equalled and overshadowed 9/11... which is what I felt was going to happen, 17 years ago."

Really? We still recognize Pearl Harbor.

tim maguire said...

George, I take her to mean nothing since then. At the time, the 9/11 attacks were expected to be the new reality in our struggle against Islamic terrorism. Fortunately, it didn't work out that way as President Bush was quite successful at taking the fight to the enemy (too successful since we seem since to have lost our focus).

Roughcoat said...

Really? We still recognize Pearl Harbor.

I remember the Maine. And the Alamo.

Oso Negro said...

With 17 years of perspective, it's fantastic that we don't have other things that have equalled and overshadowed 9/11... which is what I felt was going to happen, 17 years ago.

Yet.

n.n said...

[carbon] bags of mostly water... with colorful highlights.

Begonia said...

Be still my heart. Althouse created a Begonia tag for me.

Now I'm really going to have to spend more time here so I can live up to it.

Oso Negro said...

Crack Emcee said "to be honest, no one (but you apparently) seems concerned with the real me no matter what I do"

To the contrary, Crack, I was thinking lately that you would be interesting to meet in person. I suppose an Althouse Posters Picnic isn't likely, though. I have the idea that you live in the Bay Area. Is that correct?

readering said...

Different but Katrina and Maria pretty bad. Hope this weekend not in same class.

Henry said...

Richard Dolan...
Meanwhile, everyone with an agenda will try to turn the whole thing to advantage, having no interest whatever in this guy's story for any other reason.

I was grateful this comment thread started with LYNNDH's respectful observation. Set the right tone.

mockturtle said...

With 17 years of perspective, it's fantastic that we don't have other things that have equalled and overshadowed 9/11... which is what I felt was going to happen, 17 years ago.

If people knew how many terrorist plots have been detected and prevented since 9/11, they might be less complacent. But the MSM seldom if ever report these instances.

Ralph L said...

I don't understand why they can't identify so many remains. Was the DNA destroyed by the blast, or were there people there no one missed?

Lucien said...

@ Crack:

SDaly beat me to it, but great line.

JPS said...

mockturtle,

"But the MSM seldom if ever report these instances."

To be fair - not that the MSM doesn't make that hard sometimes - there is so much they cannot know, must not know.

Let's put it this way: I was once sternly rebuked by someone I respect hugely, for a casual mention of cell phone interception. I didn't know about it through official channels. My source, like Ambassador De Sadesky's, was the New York Times.

Bob Boyd said...

"We find people frozen on mountains because of them."

Preferable for all concerned to finding them decomposing on a couch.

SDaly said...

IMHO the thousands of Americans killed, maimed and left scarred by the endless wars initiated following the 9/11 attack, with little to show for them, have been more devastating to the country than the attacks themselves.

Howard said...

The commentator BagoH2O

Howard said...

SDaly: What, are you not impressed by the 100:1 kill ratio? I get being disappointed over the cost to kill an Arab is $11 Million each, but, hey, we have a military-industrial complex to subsidize.

Birches said...

This article had more depth than I expected when I clicked on the link. Thanks for highlighting it, Ann.

Crimso said...

"With 17 years of perspective, it's fantastic that we don't have other things that have equalled and overshadowed 9/11"

Scarborough's dumb ass would disagree...

Jupiter said...

Ann Althouse said...
"Whoever designed that room and the room it looks out on and the window between them — they must have thought that this man who lost his sister would look through that window and arrive at the thought: She is there. Or: Her earthly remains are there."

Don't mean to rain on your funeral, but if her earthly remains were in there, they would have been identified. The remains in that room are the people no one has reported missing.

Ralph L said...

Jupiter, with all the money for victims' families, it's hard to believe there would be many people unreported.

Ralph L said...

Here's an unsatisfying explanation at Brietbart.

Over 1,000 reported victims have not been found, 100 found were not reported missing.

Anonymous said...

Pearl Harbor. Gettysburg. Valley Forge. Bunker Hill.

Anonymous said...

For the USMC: Beaulieu Wood; Iwo Jima; Hue.

Anonymous said...

Normandy.

History did not start on 9/11. Though it was a horrible crime by the radical Islamists.

Over 7000 Americans lost their lives at Gettysburg, almost 34,000 were wounded.

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

Kaepernick looks like a 9-11 terrorist. Creepy.

Jupiter said...

Ralph L said...
"Jupiter, with all the money for victims' families, it's hard to believe there would be many people unreported."

There are people in this world without families, and people whose families have no idea where they are.

LCB said...

Someday I hope to visit Pearl Harbor. And if I get to visit the Arizona memorial (currently closed for repairs)...I'll bawl like a little girl for the furtures lost on Dec 7th. I'm sure I'd do the same at the Towers memorial, Verdun or the Normandy beaches.

LCB said...

Khesanh,
Gettysburg is a very sobering place to visit.