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The 9/11 Memorial is planning to dismantle the Family Room at the Memorial. My dear friend Charlie Pellegrino, who took me to the memorial a few years ago,  lost a family member and good friend on that day. Here is his email received today:

Well… over the past nearly 14 years the family room evolved into America’s largest, most colorful and most haunting example of folk art, created piece-by-piece by family members and friends of the lost

 

Beginning in the last days of 2001, the room in 1 Liberty Plaza, looking out upon the deathscape, became one of the few places of bright color at the crater – the families chose color, originally, in defiance against the grey, outside. Thousands of kind faces look out from every surface in the room – even from the inner surfaces of the windows – and among them are mementos representing every religion, Muslim, Hindu, a set of rosaries that hung from the picture of Betty Ann Ong… the mournfully beautiful smile of Judy Fernandez… a child’s doll left by the man she grew up to marry… carved angels (lots of angels).

 

The room has become famous around the world, re-appearing sometimes in the strangest places. It was replicated, in part, and ran regularly through the entire reboot of Battlestar Galactica.

 

I’ve been helping with the moving of some of the items. I made sure, first and foremost, to protect Mr. Ito’s 1,000 paper cranes (he lost his brother in Hiroshima, and grew up to lose his son in the South Tower). They were damaged already and I would not see them carried away and filed in a storage archive.

 

Outside at the “Reflecting Absence” pool, the clouds that had given us torrential rains in the early morning broke up into just a thin high-altitude fog, scraping the upper stories of the new Freedom Tower. The sun hitting the windows at just the right angle created streamers of pearly white rainbows – much like the white rainbow we saw while departing the Titanic, in 2001.

 

I put my hand down on the engraving, “Ladder 4,” followed by their names. Even when this spot was a crater full of granulated bones, I never “lost it.” I had sunglasses on and I just closed my eyes and kept back the tears but my face must have expressed some great pain – because the park around the pools had become quite crowded after the rains stopped, and there were people all around me when I touched the Ladder 4 engraving – and when I looked up, after several minutes, there was no one around me for at least 80 feet in each direction, and within 20 feet behind me. People just gave me an awful lot of space.

 

I got home and the museum called saying they need some help next week, because in moving things out, I’m one of the few people who knows what most of the objects in the Family Room mean.

 

At least I can prevent some of the damage (including the separation of objects from their related photographs).

 

But they should never be dismantling the Family Room in the first place. For the majority of us, it was our graveyard (nothing was ever found of most people). The city could not afford to keep renting that one room in an office building overlooking the site? So, they’re going to let it become an office again, removed from its actual historic context – turned into a place where people will be laughing and getting drunk at Christmas parties, back-stabbing each other, and doing all the other sorrid things that go on in a typical office, as if 14 years of prior history can be wiped away with the pulling down of photographs and a change of furniture – as if it can be erased, as irrelevant, that this was a hall of souls, for nearly 3,000 people?

 

The carelessness with which some of the objects have already been treated is beyond heartbreak.

 

See you later,

Omoiyari,

– – Charlie P.

 

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