Names on a Memorial: Families’ Affiliation

For Michael Arad, architect of the World Trade Center Memorial, random represents “the haphazard brutality of the attacks.”  But surviving families understand the consequences of information arrangement.  Outraged by the proposed random display of victims’ names and uninspired by alphabetical order, they circulated a proposal among survivors promoting arrangement by affiliation.  These surviving families believe the 9/11 attacks and deaths were anything but haphazard.

Terrorists targeted symbols of American commerce, the tallest buildings in a sea of skyscrapers, offices previously attacked.  Most victims died at work, many with coworkers in spaces they occupied together five days a week.  Investment company Cantor Fitzgerald had the greatest number of deaths.  Their corporate culture encouraged nepotism. Executives hired relatives and childhood schoolmates.  They were each others’ best friends. For these families, the loss of entire communities was not haphazard.

The family associations used their extensive fund raising capabilities to vote against random. They did not contribute substantially to the WTC Memorial, which has not raised enough money for construction.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a supporter of random arrangement, recently assumed leadership of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, with the primary function of fundraising.  On the topic of name arrangement, he now says, “We’ll just have to see.” (NYT, 10/11/06)

The families’ proposal divides the names into three areas:  Tower One, Tower Two, and an alternate area.  In each Tower, names are categorized by affiliation and then alphabetized. Names include age and floor number.  The alternate area lists first responders, the two airplanes, and those not associated with a Tower.  Uniformed rescue workers are arranged by unit and rank.  Names from the airplanes are in alphabetical order within each flight. Crew members’ names include rank.   Those not affiliated, or whose families decline an affiliated listing, are also in the alternate area.

This arrangement places the names into a classified index, with primary entry by affiliatio and a miscellaneous section for “Unknown” and “Decline to State.”  It still doesn’t tell us anything about the day of 9/11 or the experiences of the victims.  It just says they went to work or they got on an airplane and they died.

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Nov 2006

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