Macaulay Seminar One at Brooklyn College
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Memorializing 9/11 & Vietnam

    The 9/11 memorial was incredible. The rushing water, the omnipresence of the victims’ names, the imperceivable depth of the falls; the memorial was unforgettable. As you tour the perimeter of the pools you are engulfed in memory, empathy, and pride. Seeing the grandeur of Freedom Tower and the healed wound that was ground zero made me feel ridiculously in touch with American pride; to see how we bounce back after such tragedy was truly inspiring. However, upon seeing first-hand the kind of destruction and loss terrorism causes, I felt angry. I didn’t and still don’t know how to deal with those feelings; the feelings of fear, vulnerability, desire for vengeance. I suppose George Bush felt the same way, and that’s how we ended up in Iraq. I believe memorializing such a horrific event in this refined, simplistic, elegant fashion can help heal the collective scar that 9/11 has left. It shows that we can overcome any obstacle, no matter how daunting. Seeing the rise of the new World Trade Center proves that while our buildings may have been broken, our spirit never was.

     The Vietnam memorial was different, but no less powerful. This memorial incorporated letters from soldiers no older than I am; this hit a melancholic note for many of us there. The weather mimicked these feelings, as dark clouds rolled overhead, a violent wind propelling them. This was accompanied by tiny raindrops that hit the pavement like tears. I imagine on a spring day this memorial must feel different, but in the atmosphere we saw it, it seemed despondent, sad, and in all its disrepair, almost lost. In many ways, that’s what Vietnam was: a generation of lost boys, fighting fruitlessly and without cause, but nonetheless, gallantly. While the memorial may seem detached and far away, Vietnam is still very much alive in the hearts and minds of the American people. The policy and events surrounding Vietnam will always haunt us, regardless if we did not live through it. We will never forget the travesty that was the Vietnam War.


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