HEROES AND VICTIMS
Three hundred forty-three of them died that day, but to commemorate their sacrifice would be “hierarchical.” They want it clear that no one was better than anyone else, that all alike were helpless, victims.
But that is not true; it is the opposite of the truth. The men and women working in the towers were there that morning, and died. The firemen and rescue workers–they weren’t there, they went there. They didn’t run from the fire, they ran into the fire. They didn’t run down the staircase, they ran up the staircase. They didn’t lose their lives, they gave them.
This is an important disagreement, because memorials teach. They teach the young what we, as a society, celebrate, hold high, honor. A statue of a man is an assertion: It asserts that his behavior is worthy of emulation. To leave a heroic statue of the firemen out of a WTC memorial would be as dishonest as it would be ungenerous, and would yield a memorial that is primarily about victimization. Which is not what that day was about, as so much subsequent history attests.
The people who got killed sitting at their desks were victims; those who got killed charging into a burning building to help were heroes. It ain’t that complicated.
And the fact that old-style political squabbling has returned to New York City is not only unsurprising, it is a very, very good thing. It means people are getting on with the business of being citizens.