Oklahoma City National Memorial and the twentieth century memorial process

 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Memorial function
 The constituencies
 Historical precedents
 Oklahoma City
 Biographical sketch
 Signature page
University of Florida Institutional Repository UFAFA
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091720/00001

Material Information

Title: Oklahoma City National Memorial and the twentieth century memorial process
Series Title: Oklahoma City National Memorial and the twentieth century memorial process
Physical Description: Book
Creator: Belmont, Albert J. ( Dissertant )
Willumson, Glenn ( Thesis advisor )
Publisher: College of Fine Arts, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2003
Copyright Date: 2003


General Note: Museum Studies terminal project
General Note: Project in lieu of thesis

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 002959971
System ID: UF00091720:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091720/00001

Material Information

Title: Oklahoma City National Memorial and the twentieth century memorial process
Series Title: Oklahoma City National Memorial and the twentieth century memorial process
Physical Description: Book
Creator: Belmont, Albert J. ( Dissertant )
Willumson, Glenn ( Thesis advisor )
Publisher: College of Fine Arts, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2003
Copyright Date: 2003


General Note: Museum Studies terminal project
General Note: Project in lieu of thesis

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 002959971
System ID: UF00091720:00001

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
    Memorial function
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
    The constituencies
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
    Historical precedents
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
    Oklahoma City
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
    Biographical sketch
        Page 82
    Signature page
        Page 83
        Page 84
        New Page
Full Text








As the site formerly occupied by the World Trade Center was cleared of debris,

and questions began to arise concerning the future of the space, it became increasingly

clear how important Oklahoma City's recent memorial endeavor would be in redefining

lower Manhattan in the twenty-first century. I am greatly indebted to the staff of the

Oklahoma City National Memorial, especially to Archivist/Collections Manager Jane

Thomas, for her time, patience, and helpfulness during my visit to the memorial in early

2003. She made herself available for questions and three days of site visits, despite the

staffs deep involvement in the World Trade Center process, as well as in the day-to-day

operation of the memorial in Oklahoma City. I am also very grateful for the time,

suggestions, and willingness of Dr. Glenn Willumson, Director of Museum Studies at the

University of Florida's College of Fine Arts. Our conversations soon after September 11,

2001, helped to direct my research early on. In addition, I would like to thank Dr.

Alexander Alberro, Professor of Art and Art History at the University of Florida's

College of Fine Arts, for sharing his knowledge of the subject as well as his time and

editorial skills. I am also extremely grateful to Kerry Oliver-Smith, Curator of

Contemporary Art at the Samuel P. Ham Museum of Art. Her insights from the

perspective of a museum professional have added much to the outcome of my work.

Most importantly it is the support (and often patience) of my friends and family

that made this work possible. I am most grateful for the hard work and support of my

wife, Lindsay Noelle Belmont. As my research assistant in Oklahoma she was invaluable,

and in all other things she is much more.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ...............................................................................ii

ABSTRACT ...............................................................................................iv

INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................

CHAPTER 1: MEMORIAL FUNCTION .............................................. 11

CHAPTER 2: THE CONSTITUENCIES ...................................... ........... 27

CHAPTER 3: HISTORICAL PRECEDENTS ..............................................39

CHAPTER 4: OKLAHOMA CITY ..............................................................53

CONCLU SION ..............................................................................................70

BIBLIOGRAPHY ...........................................................................................74

APPENDIX: ILLUSTRATIONS ..................................... ................... 76

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ........................................................................ 83

Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts



Albert J. Belmont

August 2003

Chair: Glenn Willumson
Major Department: Art and Art History

Examination of the process through which memorials have been created during the

twentieth century offers insight into recent memorials constructed in the United States.

The progression of memorial building is evaluated through a review of the process through

which the Oklahoma City National Memorial was created in the years following the April

19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building.

The process now underway in New York City, through which a memorial to the

attacks of September 11, 2001, will be realized, results from many earlier memorial

projects. This thesis explores the issues that have made the making of memorials a

democratic process committed to designing memorials that contain personal narratives, are

open to interpretation, and stand as effective tools for teaching future generations.

This is accomplished through the study of memorial function, the constituencies involved

in memorial processes, and twentieth century historical precedents as they relate to the

creation of the memorial in Oklahoma City. In the analysis of the committees responsible


for the memorial competition in Oklahoma City, the changing attitudes toward

memorialization are evident. By including more constituencies and inviting personal

narrative into the process, the memorial that resulted was a reflection of the people for

whom it was built.

The organizing committee in New York City has desired the same atmosphere of

unity and, having reviewed the Oklahoma process, memorial plans for the World Trade

Center have followed a path much like that of its most recent predecessor. Through an

understanding of the function of memorial building, progression in twentieth century

memorial creation, and the constituencies involved in the process, memorials recently

constructed will stand not only as sites of memory but as institutions of learning for

generations to come.


The tradition of memorial building has long been a method of commemorating

moments of great historical significance. In the last century, the tradition of memorial

construction has developed into a complex process, through which personal and

communal memory is preserved. As memorials have become multifaceted many

including museums, interpretive and symbolic structures, and tributes to individuals -

the process through which society creates a memorial has greatly changed. This change is

a direct result of three factors: time, space, and the constituencies involved. This paper -

through the examination of memorial function, the various roles of the constituencies, and

past memorial projects will explore the process through which a recent memorial was

established. The Oklahoma City National Memorial, constructed in remembrance of the

bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, is an excellent

example of the various steps by which contemporary memorials are created.

Memory is the most ambiguous subject widely represented in memorials and

memorial museums around the world. Whether this stems from a human desire to control

how past events are viewed to steer history in a particular direction or a need to

personally recover from emotional or physical changes or traumas is debatable. Susan A.

Crane, editor of Museums and Memory, writes that rather than a quiet process, memory

is a catalyst, based on the aspiration to remember or to forget, to remain in one moment or

to move on forever.'

SCrane, Susan. Museums and Memory, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000: 1.

Though essentially formless, memory can be assigned physical form through a

collection of artifacts or the construction of memorial objects. To give structure to

memory, especially with regard to catastrophic circumstances caused by fellow human

beings, can be problematic in that there is never a single perspective to memory. Every

individual recollection is unique and no matter how solid a consensus exists in creating an

institutional view of an event, there will always be an opposing angle. Objects are often

used for the purpose of solidifying a view or an explanation of the memory. A museum

object has immediate value as it has been declared worthy to be collected by the

institution in which it resides.2 However, presenting an object in an exhibition that

memorializes can become a politically charged situation because deciding on an

institutional view of particular circumstances is a very difficult undertaking.

In 1995 the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. opened a

small display of the fuselage of the Enola Gay, the aircraft that carried the atomic bomb to

its destination over Hiroshima at the close of the Second World War. However, the doors

opened after a long political battle over what exactly the exhibition should be

memorializing the end of the war, American military superiority, or Japanese loss.

The planned exhibition memorializing the end of World War II was thus stripped down to

a single object and little to no context. Despite the original intention of the exhibition -

to pose questions regarding the "crossroads" of history the intended dialogue became a

pre-exhibition argument, as though a consensus was necessary before opening the

museum's doors.4

2 ibid., 2-3.
3 Gieryn, Thomas F. "Balancing Acts: Science, Enola Gay, and History Wars at the Smithsonian," The
Politics of Display: Museums, Science, and Culture, New York: Routledge, 1998: 197.

4 ibid., 200.

Those participating in the building of a memorial, whether a temporary exhibition

or permanent structure, often have power in the process simply as a result of their

involvement in the memory itself. The constituencies involved are integral in that they

propel the memorial process. The groups and individuals responsible for creating the

committees, making design decisions, and putting a public face to the memorial phase of

the event greatly affect the other two factors that drive the outcome of a memorial: time

and space. As the group trusted with overseeing the creation and execution of a memorial,

the committee or governing body has direct control over the time taken to implement

chosen plans, the redefinition of the space, and the ability to mold the recollections of the

various constituencies involved.

Time can be a very sensitive issue for many participants in the event and

memorial phase. As family members, survivors, and others directly impacted by a

catastrophic occurrence struggle to deal with the resulting trauma, anxiety, and general

feelings of loss, the pressure to offer a solution falls on the shoulders of those responsible

for steering the memorial process. This pressure can no doubt lead to the wish to speed

up plans, simply to satisfy the parties seeking closure or distance from the event being

observed. There are many theories that revolve around trauma, grief, and mourning, all of

which are important to understand the motivation behind those involved. Tragic events of

such unprecedented proportions as the attacks of September 11, 2001, leave an enormous

percentage of the population in mourning and searching for finality.

The time factor is the most unambiguous of the three. All events, whether as

dramatic as war or as inconsequential as dropping a dish on the kitchen floor, seem to the

witness of the action to be of consequence immediately following. Their feeling

diminishes in significance as time passes. In the weeks following the September 11, 2001,

attacks on the United States, even as rescue workers continued to search for survivors in

New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, preserving the memory of the events, the

victims, the survivors, and the structures themselves was already foremost in the

minds of the general public. Proposals for memorial spaces at the site of "Ground Zero"

in lower Manhattan began to arrive at City Hall shortly after the attacks and continue to

this day. However, unlike many modern memorial debates, the desire to recreate the site's

prior status was unexpectedly popular with Americans eager to make a statement of

fortitude and New York developers intent on rebuilding thousands of offices lost in

downtown Manhattan. A mere two and a half months after the attacks, incoming New

York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took a clear step away from former Mayor

Rudolph W. Giuliani's stance against economic development on the site. In January of

2002, Bloomberg cited New York's recent economic troubles as proof that the city could

not afford to turn over the full acreage at "Ground Zero" for the creation of a memorial.

The space, he argued, would best serve as a mix of office, retail and memorial space.5

The remarkable difference between the redefinition of the space at the World

Trade Center and the space once occupied by the Murrah Federal Building, the site of the

1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, is in the debate surrounding the site's future. At no

point in the decision making process in Oklahoma City was the suggestion that the

structure be rebuilt, or the space returned to its previous use ever considered.6 Aside from

New York's need to replace a tremendous amount of office space, the drive toward the

redefinition of space has taken the route followed by the projects predecessors. While the

debate between families of the victims and the Lower Manhattan Development

s Kimmelman, Michael "Out of Minimalism, Monuments to Memory," New York Times (January 13,
2002): 2:1.
a Goldberger, Paul. "Requiem: Memorializing Terrism's Victims in Oklahoma," The New Yorker (January
14, 2002): 90.

Corporation continues,7 the process of conceiving a memorial for the space has followed

a basic structure that has inevitably driven most contemporary memorials. Committees

are formed, constituencies defined, and the space redefined all in an attempt to create a

place through which the memorialized event can be better understood. However, as the

three ingredients that inevitably drive the memorialization process fluctuate in each

individual case, the process and outcome are decidedly different.

Plans for a memorial at the site of the World Trade Center attack have pressed

forward quickly. The only other example of such a speedy response exists in the planning

and implementation of the Oklahoma City National Memorial, a multifaceted

memorial/museum dedicated to victims of the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P.

Murrah Federal Building.s To many scholars, the sudden acceleration of the time

between an event and the finalization of memorial plans is troubling. Many of the world's

most important memorials took decades to conceive. Marita Sturken, of the University of

Southern California, responded to the rush to memorialize after September 11.

What, might we ask, is behind this rush to memorialize and to speak of
memorials? Could we imagine people talking of memorialization after the
destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, or the bombing of Hiroshima? Or, for that
matter, that the people of Rwanda talked of memorialization after the
massacres that killed hundreds of thousands there? Throughout history
collective and public memorialization has most commonly taken place with
the distance of time. After wars have been declared over, towns, cities, and
nations have built memorials to name the dead and those sacrificed.9

While many factors can influence the time taken to begin memorialization, the Oklahoma

SWyatt, Edward. "Many Voices, but little Dialogue on Memorial For Trade Center Site," New York
Times, (January 26, 2002). John C. Whitehead, the chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development
Corporation aligned himself with Mayor Bloomberg, suggesting that it is inevitable that the site will be
economically developed. While a design for the new structures has been selected, the area devoted to the
creation of a memorial will be decided at the close of the current memorial competition.

' Sturken, Marita. "Memorializing Absence," Understanding September 11, New York: The New Press,
2002: 375. Sturken cites the power that the families and survivors held in the process as the greatest factor
in speeding the memorial in Oklahoma into existence.

9 ibid.

City case clearly demonstrates the influence of political power over the process timeline.

Only a few weeks after the bombing, rumors began to circulate indicating that influential

political figures in the city had already selected a memorial design. Families of victims,

survivors, and other concerned citizens quickly began a crusade to acquire control of the

memorial committee.'0

An important issue was raised concerning the constituencies involved in memorial

design and implementation. Michael Berenbaum, former director of the Research Institute

at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, warned the committee overseeing the

creation of the Oklahoma City memorial that it was imperative that the memorial purpose

be clearly defined before anything else could begin (is the memorial meant to denote loss,

violence, the community coming together?)." He argued that it is only after such a

determination is made that decisions involving the space and design of the structure can be

made. A prime example of this need to determine the mission of a memorial early on is

evident in the work of Maya Lin, the Yale student who designed the Vietnam Veterans

Memorial. Her design utilized the names of those being remembered only after

establishing that the purpose of the memorial was commemoration as a means of

providing comfort to those who lost loved ones in Vietnam. The design and outcome of

the structure was possible only after such a determination of purpose had been made.

The second factor, space, has great power over the implementation of a memorial.

As memorials are notably visual in nature, the space the memorial occupies and creates

establishes the atmosphere of the memorial. For many memorials the space has been set

aside for public use, specifically for a memorial structure, as is the case with the Vietnam

'0 Linenthal, Edward. The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory, New York: Oxford
University Press, 2001: 175.
" ibid., 186.

Veterans Memorial. Others are determined by the event itself. The acreage known as

Ground Zero, was, on the morning of September 11, 2001, primarily a workplace for

thousands of people. In an instant the nature of the space changed, controlled only by

those who perpetrated the act.

There are instances where space is not of issue. For example, many of the

Holocaust museums and memorials around the world are not located on soil that has

historical significance. In such cases the redefinition of space for the purpose of the

memorial is of no consequence as all of the artifacts, personal stories, and other

exhibitions are far removed from their original context, treated instead as objects in a

museum setting. Memorial sites that come to be designated as such as a result of having

been the historical stage on which particular events took place face a greater scrutiny.

Most often the word that surfaces is "sacred." The labeling of a specific space as "sacred

ground" has been problematic in the past, especially in the designation of the space at the

site of the collapsed Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

At the beginning of the memorial building process in Oklahoma City, the task

force that was later transformed into an official design and implementation committee was

faced with the task of defining the area that would be utilized. The location most argued

over at this stage was the area of Fifth Street in front of the Murrah Building, and the site

of the initial explosion. Fifth Street was originally, until April 19, 1995, an important

connection road, providing passage between several major roads and expressways in the

city. The task force was faced with pressures from some to reopen the street to traffic.

Others were insistent that, since many had died on that street, it was a sacred place and

should not, under any circumstances, be permitted to return to its original function. While

many citizens were angry that the road could be closed forever, Oklahoma Governor

Frank Keating remarked that he was not aware of other similar situations in which roads

were given priority.12

The constituencies involved are also of great importance to the process. In the

twentieth century, the impact of an event on the lives of individuals and on communities

has been greatly influenced by advances in communications. Technological apparatuses

such as radio, television, and other mass media, instantly communicate catastrophic

events to a huge population. Had 100 million people watched a live video feed of the

attack on Hiroshima from the view of a bystander on the ground, there is little doubt that

the bombing would have more profoundly traumatized more people. Instead, the world

read headlines and heard radio reports of the news, descriptions in the same voice, same

typeface, that had reported the day's news the night before.

Communication technology has made it easier for large numbers of people to

witness events, and as a result technology has had a great role in modem memorials. It is

by our own invention that we can experience a wider variety of events, often as they

occur. The attack on the World Trade Center was an extreme example of what can be

witnessed instantly via technology. The events of September 11, 2001, have had, as a

result of the large number of accompanying visualizations, a greater impact on more

people than ever before. Time, space, and constituencies have been greatly exaggerated by

both the unimaginable and the unanticipated."

Recent events in the United States (both the 1995 bombing of the federal building

in Oklahoma City and the attack on the World Trade Center) have emphasized these

factors, and while the situation in New York continues, the recently completed National

Memorial in Oklahoma City provides the opportunity to assess the elements of memorial
12 ibid., 13.

" Sturken, 374. Sturken cited the "before/after" of the event as being unfathomed that one moment we
see the towers standing as we are accustomed to, we witness the plane impact, and experience the absence
of the towers after they have fallen, all within a short period of time.

conception and creation that drive contemporary memorials. While the purpose of this

study is not to discuss the Oklahoma City memorial in depth, the specifics surrounding

the planning committee's struggles to create the memorial are helpful in discussing how

time, space, and constituencies influence the final outcome of such a project.

In the case of the Oklahoma City memorial the definition of the constituencies

involved in the process proved to be extremely problematic. Of all the groups

represented, the largest, and least understood, was undoubtedly those who witnessed the

event. The opening lines of the mission statement of the Oklahoma City Memorial are

very inclusive, stating:

We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived, and
those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence.
May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope, and serenity.14

Reference to those "changed forever" undoubtedly can be applied to thousands of people,

if not more. Though there were not nearly as many witnesses to the bombing of the

Murrah Federal Building as to the World Trade Center, and despite the fact that the actual

act itself was not captured on tape, the immediate coverage by the media thrust many

Americans into the story only moments after the bombing had occurred. Viewers became

instant witnesses to the unexpected, just as generations before had experienced the

explosion of the Challenger space shuttle in 1986 (which was broadcast live) and the

assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 (captured on tape and broadcast after

the event itself). However, with technological advances, even since the mid-1990s,

millions of people were able to witness the World Trade Center destruction and the

murder of thousands. A mission statement, such as that of the task force in Oklahoma,

would be very difficult to implement as the creation of a memorial moves forward. While
" Oklahoma City Memorial Foundation. "Oklahoma City Memorial: An International Design
Competition," Oklahoma City: Oklahoma City Memorial Foundation, 1996: 5.

the Oklahoma City National Memorial process was facilitated by a task force and mission

statement, a September 11 memorial project will not come together as quickly. This

results from the complexity of constituencies the numerous witnesses and thousands

of survivors and victims representative of nearly every part of society.

An organized central committee, a consensus on the definition of space, and a

specific purpose are months, if not years, away in the memorializing of the attacks at the

World Trade Center. As the time, space, and the constituencies are once again assessed

and the methodology recreated to fit the specifics of the case, a new memorial will take

form based on the views of the participants in the process.

The debates and developments that led to the recently opened Oklahoma City

National Memorial precede those that will culminate in the World Trade Center memorial,

and as such there is no better case study. This paper will explore the constituencies and

theories that drove the need to memorialize the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building,

taking into consideration how the process was affected by time and space, and how the

present day memorial came into being. There have been many predecessors to the

memorial process in Oklahoma and it is important to note the contributions that past

memorials have made to the current discourse. Through an understanding of the function

of memorial building, the roles of the constituencies, and these past memorial projects, the

process through which the memorial in Oklahoma City was created can be better

understood as a progression in the tradition of memorial building.


In the past, historic events have most often been marked by monuments.

Throughout the twentieth century events have been increasingly remembered through

memorials. The difference between a memorial and monument is an important distinction

to make in the examination of recent memorial projects, for it is this difference that has

made memorials more desirable in publicly remembering events in the past century.'

Monuments are typically singular in view and are generally simple structures with little

or no context. On the other hand, a memorial is open to interpretation. Through a

memorial structure, or institution, a multiplicity of viewpoints can be presented, allowing

for a greater understanding of the event. Both a monument and memorial can contribute

to the public myth of an event the general consensus, whether completely accurate or

not, through which an event becomes known years later. In this discussion of the

differences of memorials and monuments, the most important aspects of twentieth

century memorials that will be introduced are personal trauma, personal narrative, and the

creation of myth.

Museums and memory are very closely related. Museums function on the

assumption that certain objects, spaces, and histories must be stored in the collective

memory of society. In most museum settings the objects and limited information

presented are the only direct links to memory that the visitor receives. Any further

1 For the purposes of this thesis monuments are discussed as structures constructed to express a single view,
such as victory in war. Memorials are structures, or complexes, constructed to reference many views, and
can be interpreted by individuals differently as a result ofindivdual past experience.

connection to the past, personal or shared, relies solely on the mind of the visitor.

Memory presented in a museum, no matter how detailed the presentation or context, is at

best a perfect replica of reality. The museum environment can never become what it

represents, and thus every object, every history presented, is a simulacra of reality. Jean

Baudrillard's argument that it no longer suffices to simply imitate or reproduce reality

holds true, perhaps more now than when his landmark Simulations was published twenty

years ago. Instead society strives to simulate reality completely, to create an alternate

version of what is real.2 Memorials are not constructed to recreate the event for which

they are constructed, however through symbolism it is possible for designers to create a

new reality to take the place of the former. Baudrillard's discussions of simulated sites -

Disneyland, the Enchanted Village, Marine World, and other spaces surrounding Los

Angeles are not unlike the symbolic memorials today that strive to recreate what has

been lost. This is evident in the structure of the Oklahoma City National Memorial -

rows of chairs to represent each individual, organized in rows within the footprint of the

building and the street recreated as a reflecting pool. Baudrillard argues that such

simulated sites are created to both simulate a reality and to call attention to the fact that

the simulation is the new reality.3 This is often the case with memorial structures. Site

specific memorials stand as tributes to the past, but also as the new occupants of the


A memorial, or a museum dedicated to one specific collection of memories, in

time becomes a complete simulacrum of the memorial subject the memorial becomes

the memory, rather than the original subject. This occurs as a result of the more recent

desire to create memorial sites that are open to interpretation, and the infusion of the

memories of individuals, rather than a single fabricated view that is rigid and tends not to
2 Baudrillard, Jean. "The Precession of Simulacra," Art & Text, 11 (September 1983): 3.
3 ibid., 12.

conform easily to individual experiences and ideas. A museum to memory is unique in

that it is the only venue in which memory of an event is the sole purpose. Creating a

vehicle through which memory can be preserved is therefore the goal, rather than the

fostering of political debate. Political debate surrounding the creation of the exhibition

eventually dismantled the Smithsonian's The Crossroads: The End of World War II, The

Atomic Bomb and the Origins of the Cold War in its original format However, if the

exhibition had been utilized as a method of fostering discussion in the museum and

involving visitors, on various views of a single event, the exhibition itself would have

simply existed to facilitate discussion on the subject. Instead, the fuselage of the aircraft

sat, uninterpreted, only as a monument to the event. The various participants involved in

modem events are crucial to the twentieth century model of a memorial, encouraging

interpretation on a personal level, not simply debate that pits one vantage point against

another. Such debate can only result in the adoption of a narrow view of history and the

discarding of all other vantage points.

The concept of memory is both general and abstract. One remembers objects and

events for various reasons. Memories spring from everything that encompasses the world

around us. Some memories are very personal while others are shared by other

individuals, both related and unrelated to one's own experience or memory. Recent

memorials incorporate a flexibility as to allow the infusion of individual experiences as

well as for changes over time.

Memorial function can be systematic, especially since the ultimate goals of the

twentieth century memorial are to remember and to heal. Thus the creation of a memorial

has become mathematical. Despite the fact that there are no absolutes in human behavior,

various elements affect one another, resulting in an outcome that is equal to the perceived

need. The elements of this are: space, time, and constituencies.

As a means of demonstration, the formula is applied to what will be here referred

to as Site A. Site A, once a high profile structure, is now simply a void in the city or

town in which it once stood. Many people living in the community were killed, injured,

or witnessed the event that destroyed the structure that occupied Site A. The void is not

only structural and emotional, but financial as well. Many people lost their employment

and the local economy suffers as financial institutions located inside and around the

structure fell prey to the destruction as well. The combination of those involved

(survivors, rescuers, families of the victims, witnesses and others) and the drastic

redefinition of Site A (the space) defines the historic impact of the event.

The overall impact of the event is continuously effected by the factor of time.

Time influences the memories of those who were involved in the event. As time passes

traumatic, emotional, and physical wounds heal, making it more difficult for individuals

to accurately recall specific details. Therefore, the void, as created by time's effect on the

constituencies involved, is greatest immediately following the event that destroyed Site

A. Time itself is the most integral part of the equation as it is endlessly transforming

memory. For a resulting memorial to be "timeless" to remain meaningful in the future

- it cannot not present a recreated moment in time, but must have the ability to conform

to the current climate, to remain effective even as perceptions change.4 The function of a

memorial is to appease the void metaphorically and physically or, in this perfect

scenario, to fill the void. Thus the interaction of time, space, and constituencies

demonstrates the role a memorial must play to become a component of the event itself,

not simply as a souvenir of trying times, but as an historical counterbalance. This is

evident in the numerous letters and unsolicited proposals received by the Oklahoma City

Memorial Foundation in the duration following the bombing. The proposals and letters

* Young, James. The Texture ofMemory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning, New Haven. Yale University
Press, 1993: 48.

are all similar in that each expressed a desire to appease the changes brought about by the

bombing and submitted designs that would in some way fill the the individual's sense of

the void left following the event.

In beginning to carefully explore the role of the memorial, it is important to take

into account the previously discussed differences between a memorial and a monument.

While the roles of each are changing, there are fundamental differences. A monument,

by definition, could never be successful in filling the void. James Young, of the

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, observed that it is the very nature of a monument

to be "singular in memory," to present a single view point, most likely that of a political

group or state that only seeks to retain or gain control over what is remembered by the

general populace.5 Consequently, monuments are often sites of controversy, and those

who do not feel a connection to the narrow view assigned to a monument are denied a

personal connection. Unlike a memorial that is open to visitor interpretation, a

monument provides nothing to interpret. In such cases the void as perceived by an

individual the emotional, traumatic, physical change resulting from an individual's

own experience is not filled, perhaps it is even increased by the complete exclusion of

multiple points of view.

Accordingly, memorials structures that act as a vehicle for discussion,

understanding and learning have become a very effective way to recognize the past,

identifying that events are surrounded by numerous constituencies. Young has indicated

that a memorial is in fact still a monument, only with the illusion of diversity. He argues

that often times memorials claim to be open to interpretation, but fail to offer content to

back up this claim. To a certain extent this is absolutely true. Some memorials have the

appearance of a state or politically mandated monument. For example, the Vietnam

5 Young, James. Memory and Monument: After 9/11, Distinguished Faculty Lecture, University of
Massachusetts, Amherst, Mullins Center, October 10, 2002.

Veteran's Memorial has all of the outward qualities of a monument a simple design,

lists of dates and names yet designer/architect Maya Lin did not create the structure to

make a single statement concerning the war. Rather she purposefully sought to create a

memorial space that solicits the individual memories of visitors, the most prominent

method was through the arrangement of names. The memorial's effectiveness in doing so

is evident in the incredible amount of items left behind at individual names on the wall.

Perhaps, then, it is in the definition of the space that makes a memorial open-

ended and accepting of personal experiences and views. A state-sponsored monument, as

Young recognizes, has in the past been indicative of most state programs, the basic goal

being to create an edifice that brings about consensus, that creates one national identity

and thus makes the nation stronger, one in purpose.' Mount Rushmore is an example of

this type of structure. Rushmore's statement is simply that those whose faces are on view

are the great leaders of our nation. There is no interpretation of events, policies, or

decisions that made these presidents important enough to create such a monument, only

the statement that they were our nation's greatest leaders. In the past this has been a

traditional method of marking events. Monuments to wars, leaders, major societal events

depict the victories, not the defeats and weaknesses of society and have been constructed

for centuries.

During the 20th Century, however, especially in the United States, the inclusion

of multiple view points has become increasingly popular, and thus it has become more

likely that a memorial will involve more constituencies than ever before. Young has

stated that "this relatively newfound sense of public ownership of national memory, that

6 Hawkins, Peter S. "Naming Names: The Art of Memory and the NAMES Project AIDS Quilt," Thinking
About Exhibitions, New York: Routledge, 2000: 134. The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial is further discussed
in Chapter Four of this paper.
7 Young, James. Memory and Monument: After 9/11, Distinguished Faculty Lecture, University of
Massachusetts, Amherst, Mullins Center, October 10, 2002.

this memory may actually be ours somehow and not on vicarious loan to us for the sake

of common identity, has been embraced by a new generation of memorial-makers who

also harbor a deep distrust for traditionally static forms of the monument, which in their

eyes have been wholly discredited by their consort with the last century's most

egregiously dictatorial regimes."8 As a result the only way to adequately fill the

metaphorical and literal voids yielded by an event is to address the entirety of the event,

and not to reduce its gravity to single, simple viewpoint in an attempt to create a

consensus. This can only be achieved through a memorial.

Jochen Gerz and Ester Shalev-Gerz's Monument Against Fascism, described by

its makers as a "counter-monument," was a comment on the narrow views presented by

monuments. The Gertz's structure was actually a memorial disguised as a monument. In

appearance the structure was indicative of Fascism and had the qualities of a state-

directed monument in that it is plain in appearance and offers no explanation of itself

aside from its title. It was presented to counter the singularity of a monument, a statement

against the tendentious anatomy and policies of Fascist states. The public was offered the

opportunity to inscribe their own thoughts onto the monument In regular intervals, over a

period of years, the structure was lowered into the ground, allowing individuals to attach

meaning to literally every inch of the monument. Young noted that the structure also

addressed the issue of time, as it gradually disappeared into the earth. Beginning in

October of 1986, the rigid rectangular metal tower built in Herburg, Germany, began its

descent.9 Thus the fascist monument metamorphosed into a memorial of the struggles

that the community once faced under a Fascist regime. Not only did the Monument

Against Fascism change with time, but the structure also reflected the collective

memories of all of those who chose to scratch their comments onto the surface. Through
9 Young, The Texture of Memory, 31.

the structure, which eventually vanished by September 1991, the Gerzes demonstrated

the transformation of memory as time passes. The structure, as it descended over of

period of five years, gradually became a memory itself and a simulacrum of the event it

was created to memorialize.'0

In examination of the effects of traumatic events on individuals and communities

the need for memorials, rather than monuments, is evident. In the past century memorials

have been very specific in their aim to offer a vehicle for healing rather than simply to

provide a visual connection to the past. As the number of points of view involved in the

memorial process have steadily grown, so has the desire to effectively deal with issues of

personal and collective trauma. Traumatic experiences are realized differently by each

individual, and events that effect massive numbers of people complicate the method in

which communities cope together. The twentieth century, along with its many advances,

also introduced the ability to inflict mass-casualties in short periods of time. While the

devastation of war has long been present on the battlefield, mass-destruction on the

civilian level is a relatively recent phenomenon in the United States. In the past,

Americans have dealt with public traumas differently than in recent years. American wars

have been either fought overseas, or have been extremely divisive. As a result, public

memory does not always rise quickly to the forefront of national consciousness. Thus a

gap is often created, leaving those traumatized by an event with little public sympathy. A

large number of Vietnam Veterans experienced this upon returning to the United States

after the war. The public, having not experienced directly what had taken place on the

other side of the globe did not have an adequate understanding of the personal traumas of

returning soldiers. A number of years passed before a public response was formed and

those deeply affected by their experiences in Vietnam were left to handle with their

" ibid., 32-33.

experiences on their own. Veterans of previous foreign wars fought in the twentieth

century came home to great fanfare parades, presidential honors and were

celebrated by the public and media. This was not the case with the soldiers of Vietnam.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, as a public response to the war and those who died or

were missing, only came about after a veteran of the war, Jan Scruggs, led an effort to

create a formal recognition of those who never returned to American soil after the close

of the war."

This has not been the case in the last decade. While there have been occurrences

of violence against Americans outside of the national boundaries, the most consequential

occurrences involving American civilians have taken place within our own sphere.

During the most violent and deadly battles of the Vietnam War, the average American

citizen continued to pursue his or her daily schedule, unchanged by the events occurring a

half-world away. The 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City

and the bombing (1993) and eventual destruction (2001) of the World Trade Center thrust

the average American into warlike situations. Traumas created by such events lead to the

need to memorialize and to include personal memory as a vehicle through which the past

may be preserved. A vehicle through which memory can be presented in a memorial or

museum setting is through narrative. Narrative is thus a very important attribute of a


Personal narratives of grief are common in memorial institutions and many

museums collect stories as well as artifacts. The telling of stories by individuals involved

in traumatic events has been an important part of the discourse of recent memorial

institutions. In early 2002, the Florida Holocaust Museum, located in St. Petersburg,

exhibited a collection of photographs of Holocaust survivors, many of them local

" Hawkins, 134.

residents, accompanied by descriptions of their individual experiences sixty years

earlier." This attention to the individual traumas of such events is apparent in more

recent memorial institutions. The initial discourse of the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal

Building Task Force revolved around the involvement of individuals in the memorial

process and their emotional well-being as well as in the procuring of their personal stories

for use in the institution.

Traumatic experiences affect individuals in multiple ways. One common thread,

however, is in the desire, even the need, that most survivors of traumatic events

demonstrate to tell their stories as a method of counteracting trauma. Dori Laub, in Truth

and Testimony: The Process and the Struggle, determines that survivors witness events in

three levels.3 Not only do survivors witness traumatic events around them, but witness

their own firsthand knowledge, their own memories that are unaffected by the realities

within others. Secondly, the survivor takes on the role of storyteller in the retelling of

personal experience. Third, she writes that the survivor suddenly experiences the role of

forever being a witness. History is born through the testimonies of those who lived it.

Experiences as consequential as the Holocaust continue to resonate within individuals

who were there, and as a result continue to provide firsthand information for decades.

Laub writes that survivors do not simply live through great adversity to tell their stories,

but tell their stories to survive.

There is, in each survivor, an imperative need to tell and thus to
come to know one's story, unimpeded by ghosts from the past

12 The Florida Holocaust Museum's exhibitions deal with reactions to the Holocaust on numerous levels.
The museum provides an extensive collection of artifacts, original drawings and photographs, and historical
background as well as local reactions and histories from those who were there and those who have been
affected indirectly.

1 Laub, Dori. "Truth and Testimony," Trauma: Explorations in Memory, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1995: 61-63.

against which one has to protect oneself. One has to know one's
buried truth in order to be able to live one's life.'4

In recent years, memorial institutions have presented survivors with a greater opportunity

to do just this. In Oklahoma City, the creation of a committee overseeing the design and

implementation of a memorial on site of the Murrah Federal Building catered to this aim.

After a brief flirtation with professionalizing the process, hiring "outsiders" to make up

the oversight committee, it was determined by the interim leadership that the local

community, families of victims, and survivors had to have a degree of control over the

process." Lack of input from the families, survivors, rescue workers and others with

personal stake in the creation of the memorial was determined to be detrimental to their

well-being, and thus detrimental to the creation of a memorial that was an accurate

history of those involved and their part in the events of April 19, 1995.

What results from the work that goes into the creation of a memorial is the

mythology that follows. While the word myth can be easily misinterpreted as a falsehood,

this is not the case. A myth is the common perception of the history of an event long after

it has occurred. Myth is a common aftereffect of historical events and relates directly to

the creation of a memorial. Once a memorial institution is established, it becomes a part

of the history of the event itself. A memorial presents a direction for the discourse to

follow, and thus manipulates the direction of history. All aspects of life contain myth, but

none more prominent than those effecting the general population and more recently,

those that are broadcast via technology around the world. Roland Barthes' myth theories

are telling in how memorials attempt to counteract the effects of various events. Barthes

explains that the myth is a time-tested representation of an event and takes form as time

passes. Myth is created over the passage of time, as initial reactions and personal
4 ibid., 63.

15 Linenthal, 187.

narratives are no longer fresh it is the result of the loss of all that goes into the making

of a memorial. Events that can no longer be described by firsthand participants can only

be explained through myth, the common perception of events without the advantage of

personal experience. Therefore myth is not created by committees and influential

constituencies, but is driven by their decisions.16 While memorial content will have

influence on the eventual myth of a past event, there is no way to actually create what

will become lasting history.

The most immediate examples of the of myth exist in spontaneous memorials that

spring up long before committees meet and rules and regulations regarding permanent

memorials are formed. These small tributes contribute to the direction of historical

remembrance. Catastrophic events in the United States are increasingly met with

immediate remembrances ceremonies, observances, and temporary, spontaneous


The Murrah Federal Building site is again a prime example of population driven

memorialization and what has become part of the enduring myth of the site. By the

evening of April 19, 1995, several spontaneous memorials had already appeared around

the Murrah Federal Building site as well as outside the nearby YMCA building.17

Following the implosion of the building on May 23, 1995, an ordinary chain-linked fence

was erected. Much like the tradition of leaving objects at the Vietnam Veterans

Memorial, this fence, without discussion, become a mecca to those with the desire to

leave something behind at the site (see figure 1). The fence acted as the nation's

Oklahoma City bombing memorial in the interim, while a more permanent memorial was

16 Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. Ann Lavers, transl., New York: Hill and Wang, 1972: 109-110.
7 Linenthal, 119. Linenthal discusses the various offerings left at the site as well as the lengths gone to by
many, including the National Guard, to safeguard the spontaneous memorial.

under discussion. A section of the fence remains in place and continues to collect the

personal memories of those who visit the site.'

A symbol associated with the bombing in Oklahoma City is that of the Survivor

Tree (see figure 2). The emerging myth of the events of Oklahoma City is the survival of

the community, and is symbolized by the tree. An American Elm, the tree is estimated to

be roughly 80-100 years old and once simply provided shade in the parking lot directly

across Fifth Street from the Murrah Federal Building. Not long after enduring the blast -

a barrage of automobile shrapnel, pieces of the surrounding buildings, and fire the elm

sprouted new leaves and the community took notice. The tree became an instant symbol

of the vitality of the city, and the nation. As with the fence, the tree was adorned with

personal items and messages of hope and renewal. By the time the National Memorial

opened to the public in 2001 the tree had become an unplanned focus of the site, and now

serves as the institution's official symbol and logo. The tree has been adopted by both the

community and by the Forestry Services Division of the Oklahoma State Forestry

Service.'1 The National Memorial has gone to great lengths to ensure that the tree

continues to survive and offer a symbol of strength to the community, including raising

seedlings, ready to take the place of the original elm when the tree eventually expires.2"

The Survivor Tree, upon careful examination, is not merely a symbol of renewal, but a

'8 The fence itself has its own collections policy. The fence is routinely photographed and the items on the
fence remain in place for a period of thirty days, after which they are removed and catalogued in the
archives. The archives are held in the Journal Records Building, a structure that suffered damage in the
blast. This information, as well as notes that follow, discussing information gathered in the archives at the
Oklahoma City National Memorial, result from a number of site visits conducted in February 2003 and are
made possible by Jane Thomas, the Collections Manager. Ms Thomas was kind enough to invite me to
work in the archives and tap her extensive knowledge of the site and the events on and following April 15,
1995. I am indebted to her for much of the information in this paper discussing memorial policies, survivor
definition, and the symbolic memorial design competition.
9 King, Shannon. "Survivor Tree Gets a Little TLC," The Oklahoman (February 25, 1998): D:28.

0 The archives houses a small number of the seeds for cataloguing purposes. The seedlings are produced by
the State Forest Service. Ken Bays, of the Forest Service has also provided a number of the seedlings to the
families of victims during various ceremonies at the site.

myth of renewal. The myth of the tree is that all of those involved in the bombing have

healed from the event.

Myth is not quick to emerge. American memorialization is replete with examples

of places of remembrance driven by the judgments of history. How history will present

the events of April 19, 1995, and those of September 11, 2001, is yet unknown, but many

American sites of memory are prime examples of the creation of myth. The Boston

Massacre, the first violence occurring between the English and the American Colonists,

took place at the Boston Custom House on March 5, 1770. The event has gone through

historical redefinition numerous times before settling on the national myth that we as

Americans recognize today. Despite the initial uproar over the slaughter of five colonists,

for over a century the date was marked negatively,2 as a day when, after inciting the

violence themselves, the colonists involved were gunned down by the British troops

guarding the Custom House. It was not until 1886 that a symbolic memorial to the event

and those who died was proposed by the Boston Historical Society, after "the [American]

centennial helped to convince Americans that their experiment with democracy had

succeeded ... Americans began to mark the sites of events judged to be important to this

record of success."2 Until that point, the current, unadulterated perspective that the

Boston Massacre marks the beginning of the Revolutionary War was not widely held, as

"many were displeased to trace the birth of their nation to a riot in which a black man -

Crispus Attucks was the first casualty."2 The creation of a memorial to those who

died, as well as a symbolic marker that claims to indicate the very spot where American

blood was first shed, was a vehicle in creating the myth of the nature of the event, that it

is a mark in the success of democracy. The memorial is now a part of the National Park
" Foote, Kenneth. Shadowed Ground, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997:271.
Sibid., 269.

Sibid., 271.

Service's Boston Freedom Trail, a heavily visited walk through Boston's revolutionary


A prime example of how myth can create an environment receptive to

memorialization is in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

(Mormons), a religious group founded in New York in 1830 and systematically driven

from state to state until they were no longer within the borders of the United States.4

Along the journey that eventually led the group to what is now Salt Lake City, Utah,

events surrounding the church's beginnings and the assassination of its leaders were left

unmarked for years. In many cases, the Mormons feared the desecration of the sites were

they to be identified, notably, the burial sites of their first President, Joseph Smith, and

his brother, Hyrum Smith. The current, more favorable climate has allowed the Mormons

to create memorials to the group's struggles throughout the nineteenth century, including

the inclusion of the Pioneer Trail in the National Park Service.25 Places where members of

the church were brutalized are now home to memorials and markers to the history of the

people who had suffered there at the hands of others, and demonstrate the great changes

that can occur in how historical events are viewed by later generations.26

Myth that surrounds events such as these is always fluctuating. However, there is

a distinct difference in how we, as the current generation of memorial creators, view

myth. In the past, Americans have been reluctant to memorialize soon after an event

occurred. Thus many locations were temporarily disregarded after initial concern

regarding the event has passed. In recent times, especially in Oklahoma City and New

York, the immediate commencement of the memorial process has been important in order

24 ibid., 256. The Mormons began in Palmyra, New York, in 1830, and many of the sites of the church's
beginnings were abandoned as the group fled west. These sites have been purchased by the church and
restored during the twentieth century.
" ibid., 261.


to allow recent memory to be stored within the memorial. Accordingly, the site is not

allowed to fall victim to waning interest. By speeding up the process, the eventual myth

is influenced through the redefinition of the space as a memorial site. History will

thereafter recognize the importance placed on the memory of such an event.


There are many constituencies involved in the memorial process. By defining their

roles and the differences between these various groups the process through which

memorials are created can be better understood. For the purposes of this discussion the

constituencies will be organized into two groups: the audience and the general public. The

first group addressed will be those who witness events. This constituency must be

addressed separately as witnesses and often overlap the two categories of audience and

public. Second, the audience group will be examined, and is shown to consist of victims,

families of victims, survivors, and rescuers. Third, the general public will consist of

community members and outsiders.

The acceleration of the memorial process in recent times can be attributed to the

changing definition of the constituencies involved. The group that has undergone the most

change is undoubtedly the witness, an individual that experiences an event from a distance.

One who views any occurrence in society, whether it be a mugging on the street or the

bombing of a building, has immediate value in the retelling of the event. Our courts make

major decisions based on the testimonies of witnesses, sporting events and contests are

judged by those who carefully observe, and the news media gathers information at an

astonishing speed through the testimonies of others.

The witness's role is simply to provide a firsthand account of an occurrence.

Through the stories of witnesses, information becomes available to those who have no

connection to an event. It is through the witness that an event becomes real to those who

are not involved. As technology has created a greater ability to experience much of the

world as events occur, levels of witnessing have emerged. These levels can be defined as

eyewitnesses and indirect witnesses. Eyewitnesses are those who experience an event in

the same time and space as the event occurs. Indirect witnesses may experience an event

in actual time, through video or radio, but are removed from the site. Though previously

experienced on smaller scale events, the concept of indirectly witnessing an event became

well known after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Thousands of New Yorkers

experienced the destruction of the World Trade Center at street level, however, millions

more witnessed the very same event, indirectly, via the television, radio, and the internet.

The September 11th attacks are thus far the most widely witnessed events in human

history. As the events played out on live television the concept of witnessing began to


In reference to an individual's historical experience, Susan Crane asks "How does

history become 'personal' only when it is survived, or only when private lives become

public knowledge?"' The World Trade Center attacks give validity to the latter, though in

most estimations it would seem that history is personal through a combination of the

two. September 11th was unique in that there was little distinction between the personal

and the public. The destruction of an iconic building, a place symbolic of global commerce

and America's place in the world market, was instantly personal to most Americans. The

prominence of the two towers had drawn millions of visitors since their construction in

the early 1970s, and thus many people around the world recounted their own experiences

as the buildings fell. Just as objects in a museum can trigger associations with places,

people, and societies, live images of the collapse of the World Trade Center became

'Crane, Susan. (Not) Writing History: Rethinking the Intersections of Personal History and Collective
Memory with Hans von Aufsess," History and Memory 8 (Spring Summer 1996): 5.

personal to millions of people who made associations with their own experiences in New

York City or at the buildings themselves.

A connection with the site is a unique affiliation when defining constituencies, and

is what separates the "audience" from the "general public." James Young makes reference

to both Saul Friedlander2 and Art Spiegelman3 in making this distinction in relation to the

Holocaust. Saul Friedlander's terms "common memory" and "deep memory" are

respected in the discourse of memory in Holocaust studies, and aid in explaining the

differences between an event's audience and public. In Friedlander's examination of

Holocaust memory he describes "common memory" as memory that can diminish to the

point of allowing for closure, while "deep memory" "continues to exist as unresolved

trauma."4 While the public is decidedly aware of their surroundings, and might even be

affected by events that transpire close to home, they are generally able to recover quickly

from the impact. The audience, however, is more involved in the event itself-- usually an

eyewitness or an individual with personal stake in the space or an acquaintance directly

involved in the event. Both the audience and the public groups contain witnesses,

however they are separated by the degree of relationship to the space i.e. eyewitnesses

and indirect witnesses. Simplified, personal experience and public experience decide what

kind of witness an individual is.

Defining the constituencies of a traumatic, destructive event is problematic.

Creating specific groups with definitive qualities promotes division before the memorial

process can even begin. This delays the process and, as time passes, memories are no

longer fresh and can make it difficult to design a place that captures the many stories that

2 Young, At Memory's Edge, 12-15. Young discusses the significance of Friedlander's Nazi Germany and
the Jews, in memory discourse.
Sibid., 15-41. Spiegelman's Maus is interpreted by Young as a story of recovery, not necessarily of
4 ibid., 14.

inevitably arise. In January of 2002, while the September 11th attacks were fresh in the

minds of New Yorkers, Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times published an article

in which he suggested that the modern drive to create a coming together in society as a

"communal or national bereavement, which [a] memorial embodies" is superficial that

there cannot be both fresh memory and consensus.5 To an extent this is true. As in the

Oklahoma City memorial, the creation of a single memorial to fit an entire community and

developing an environment in which many different groups can productively interact is a

difficult task. Many of the constituencies in Oklahoma had to first learn to interact with

one another before tackling the task of building a memorial. However, through the

expression of these emotions memories that remain fresh through discussion and

debate compromise and consensus emerges.

Kimmelman's comments, however, are not off mark. Timing proved to be crucial

in many aspects in the planning and implementation of the Oklahoma memorial.

However, many constituencies brought together by the diverse, democratic fashion

through which the various committees overseeing the process were created. The groups of

audience and public play an important part in this interaction. Applying Friedlander's

"common memory" and "deep memory" a survivor and the family member of a victim are

grouped together as members of the audience ("deep memory"), and rather than fitting

into a divisive hierarchy they are both considered immediate participants, without losing

the identity of their individual experiences. Defining and understanding the individual

constituencies involved is important step in beginning the memorial process, however, not

all participants fit into Friedlander's two categories.

The victims, though undoubtedly the most dramatically affected individuals

involved in an event, is not a participant in the memorial process. Victims are those who

SKimmelman, 2:1.

died as a result of the event itself and are included as a part of the audience. Families of

victims stand in as their advocates in the memorial process. For the most part, the

memorial process is centered around victims. There are two primary reasons for this.

First, a victim's personal story cannot be told. Those who perish in a war, in a terrorist

act, or even by disease no longer have a voice. The memorial, in a sense, becomes a last

statement for those who died a public epitaph. Secondly, memorials to events such as

the bombing of the Murrah Building, or the World Trade Center attacks, occur very

quickly. A memorial inevitably marks the instant of the event, and thus, the instant of

many deaths. Through site specific memorials, the memorial serves those who perished

much in the same way as a grave marker does at a traditional cemetery, by marking a

space of significance in the death of an individual.

Survivors, as those conducting initial meetings regarding the beginning stages of the

Oklahoma City National Memorial discovered, are very difficult to define. There are

many factors that play into the definition of a survivor, and these components vary in

each event. In their work, the Survivor Definition Committee in Oklahoma asked, "Why

draw the line at all? Is it really necessary to say one person is a survivor and one is not?'"

They quickly came to the following conclusion:

Members of the subcommittee were very concerned that excluding
certain individuals from the ranks of survivors could result in
discounting the experiences of countless people touched by the
bombing. So cautious, in fact, were the members, that early on they
found themselves asking, "Do we really need to narrow the
definition, or can anyone who lived through the bombing be called a
survivor?" Much discussion revealed that to call all individuals
"survivors" ultimately made the term virtually meaningless and, as
a result, was disrespectful to those who directly experienced this
horrific crime.7
' Oklahoma City Memorial Foundation, "Survivor Definition for the Purposes of Fulfilling the Memorial
Mission Statement Only," 1. This document is an internal document of the Memorial Foundation and is
quoted with the permission of the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
7 ibid., 1.

By creating a survivor definition that fits a "survivor" into the Friedlander model of

"Deep Memory," or as a member of the audience, rather than the general public, survivors

for the purpose of the Oklahoma City National Memorial were those who were within a

specific danger zone. The danger zone included areas badly damaged by the explosion in

which individuals were injured, or fatalities occurred (see figure 3, in which building A

represents the Murrah Federal Building). Those outside of this area, who may have heard

or seen the effects of the event, are therefore grouped with the general public, those with a

"Common Memory" of the event, but without specific traumas that are characteristic of

"Deep Memory."

The immediate family members of victims also reside in this category. In

Oklahoma, as in most instances resulting in a high number of fatalities, there was much

fighting within the these groups early on a hierarchy of victims formed, making it

difficult to derive consensus among those with the most in common. For example, to

some the death of a child was viewed as a greater loss than to someone older.8 However,

consensus in a memorial does not necessarily indicate that participants in an event have

compromised their personal truths, their own stories, for the sake of creating a site

acceptable to all. Accuracy is the most important aspect of the coming together of the

constituencies. Linenthal captures this sentiment in stating that the "shared grief of

Holocaust survivors or family members and survivors in Oklahoma City does not

obliterate hierarchies. In fact, the deeply felt need to get the story of what happened to

whom, and who was affected in what ways, to get it all 'just right,' makes hierarchies

even more important."9 Hierarchy within the "families" group is complex. There are

families who lost multiple members, children, or indirect relations cousins, aunts and

SLinenthal, 181.
9 ibid., 197.

uncles. While families and survivors share the deepest of traumatic memories in such

cases, it is often difficult for each of these two groups to accept the other as having an

understanding of the others' experiences.

There is one other constituency as deeply affected by and later involved in the

memorialization of a traumatic event. This is the group of rescuers, a part of the audience

label. No constituency has a role that varies more from one incident to the next. The

rescuers, or "volunteers," are the only group to witness the danger before making a

decision to become a direct participant. While only one "initial responder" life was lost in

the rescue effort at the Murrah Building, hundreds were killed in the World Trade Center,

putting a greater focus on the role of the rescue worker in such events. In acts of

terrorism, emergency response professionals are much like the military servicemen who

take part in organized conflicts. They represent the volunteer aspect of the event.

However, those in this role are often in the shadows. Police and firefighters are routinely

in the path of danger and it is easy for the public to visualize their duties, while it is more

difficult more shocking to visualize an office worker or a child in day-care in a

similar situation. Those who also fit in the volunteer category include ministers, mental

health workers, and others who are immediately available to the survivors and families.

These individuals are unique in that they bridge the "public" and "audience"

categories. Those who rushed into the World Trade Center and into the Murrah Building

were witnesses first, but as a result of their actions became survivors, even victims.

Simply by carrying out their positions in society, as police officer or firefighter, many

were thrust from public to participant in a matter of minutes. Volunteers in moments of

extreme danger have been memorialized in the United States for centuries. Americans have

a long history of paying tribute to fallen soldiers, activists, and public servants, including

numerous presidents. From the Lincoln Memorial to the Vietnam Memorial and the

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, America has long been

driven to recognize the sacrifices of its citizens.

The rescue effort at the site of the Oklahoma City Bombing exposed those

working at the site to the horrific details of the scene on a day-to-day basis. At the end of

1997, a mere year and a half after the bombing, more than thirty firefighters and members

of their families had attempted to take their own lives, and six had committed suicide.

Divorce rates, alcoholism, drug abuse, and domestic violence swelled among those

employed with the Police Department, Fire Department, and Federal Bureau of

Investigation in Oklahoma City.' The rescue and recovery effort lasted for weeks (for

months at the site of the World Trade Center) and one by one those working at the site

carried out the victims. Even still, the Memorial Foundation's Family and Survivors

Committee did not invite rescuers to join their group until 1999, four years after the

bombing." The structure of participants the constituencies' own tendencies to remain

with their own group and not desire to work together with others who experienced the

bombing in different ways was difficult to break. However, the organizers of the

memorial process worked diligently to overcome the structure and promote a feeling of

togetherness among those so closely related to the memorial's subject. The Oklahoma

City Memorial Foundation created a mission statement that sought to recognize their

efforts early on in the process, a portion of which states:

The Memorial Complex should include a tribute to those who
helped. It should honor professionals who worked to rescue and
treat survivors and to recover victims of the blast. Such recognition
also should extend to the many volunteers who supported rescue,
recovery and medical personnel by providing supplies, food and
shelter, as well as emotional and spiritual support. Also, the tribute
should honor the spirit of unity that characterized the response of
the community and the nation following the attack, and it should
0 ibid., 76-7.
" ibid., 77.

reflect the sense of pride such responses created. It is important
that such a tribute in no way diminish the tragedy, but rather, that
it offer an inspiring contrast between the brutality of the evil and
the tenderness of the response.12

This struggle goes on today as the memorialization process moves forward in New York,

where there has been debate regarding the inclusion of a statue to memorialize members of

the Fire Department of New York who lost their lives in the Twin Towers."

The "public" role in major historical events has changed tremendously in the past

decades as technology has provided numerous ways to experience history. This has

culminated in the live coverage of the September 11th attacks. No other event has been

witnessed by so many, in real-time, from beginning to end. The high profile of the site,

coupled with the accessibility of the coverage led to a majority of the population

becoming eyewitnesses. In the "public" category there are three groups that play an

important part in the memorialization process the organizers, the media, and the

general public. To adequately discuss the contributions of those not directly involved in

the subject for which the memorial will be constructed, it is important to examine each

individually, as their goals are not always the same.

The committee of organizers of the memorial process are undoubtedly most

influential in planning and implementing all aspects of the operation. The make-up of this

organizing committee is the first statement regarding the direction the memorial itself will

take. The organizers are a new group formed from individuals selected from the

constituencies, with the task of creating a memorial that is representative of the desires

and needs of all. Thus the memorial process becomes an exercise in democracy. For

example, a committee with a membership that is diverse, representing many different

constituencies from the public and audience groups- is more likely to yield an end
' Oklahoma City Memorial Foundation, "Memorial Mission Statement," 2.

3 Noonan, "September 11 Today," The Wall Street Journal, (June 11, 2003).

product that many can relate to on a personal level. A committee run entirely by the

general public is sure to miss many of the aspects that affected those directly involved in

the subject itself. A project run by a handful of individuals, representing their own desires

and impressions, produces similar results. A lack of diverse views and experiences could

have drastically changed the memorial that now stands in Oklahoma this nearly was

the case. An early leader in the process desired a panel of professional judges to decide

the outcome of the international design competition, with input from various other

sources, but with no assurance that the advice would be considered in the panel's

selections.14 As this idea was a great affront to the ranks of those with vested interest in

the outcome of the memorial project, leadership changes took place and those overseeing

the creation of the design committee, newly aware of the need for a democratic and

diverse panel, began again. While a memorial committee, such as the committee in

Oklahoma, tends to be more representative of the public outside professionals must

have a hand in such a venture to keep the project afloat financially and organizationally -

ideally those close to the subject of the memorial should be included in the process

whenever it is realistically possible.

Therefore, the organizers the panels and committees that oversee each aspect

of the creation of a memorial teeter between "public" and "audience." Though the

detail and accuracy of those who directly witness events is integral, so is public

perception. Indirect witnesses, those who experience the memorial subject in a secondary

way members of the "public" group represent the visitors of the future. A visitor, a

member of the general public, must be able to derive information from the site easily.

Therefore engaging the public is in essence a test of the longevity of the memorial.

The media has an ever increasing role in the process as well. The public receives
Goldberger, Paul. "Requiem: Memorializing Terrism's Victims in Oklahoma," The New Yorker (January
14, 2002): 91. Paul Spreiregen was hired to create the memorial committee and the international design
competition. His hiring and departure are further discussed in chapter four of this paper.

most, if not all, information regarding current events through the news media including

print, television, radio, and, most recently, the internet. Media access has changed the

way the world witnesses history. In dissecting the constituencies involved through the

defining of the two groups of audience and public, it is important to understand that the

witness overlaps both groups. Whether an individual experiences history through the

media or direct contact, a witness is created. The recent innovations in

telecommunications technology have devised the ability to easily witness history in real-

time via television, computer, even through an array of wireless hand-held devices.

The reality conveyed through the media is accentuated in times of crisis, the

ultimate example of which is the morning of September 11. Baudrillard explains that

television is no longer a simulation of reality, rather it has become a method through

which we experience reality. "We are witnessing the end of perspective and panoptic

space," he writes, "... and hence the very abolition of the spectacular. Television ... is no

longer a spectacular medium."'5 Television and internet media has created an alternate way

to experience filtered versions of realities, and create an opportunity for millions of

individuals to experience and witness events of historical significance as they occur.

This new reality creates a problem that is still very difficult to comprehend -

where does the general public fit in? First it is important not to downplay the significance

of experiencing a traumatic event through a secondary source. The perceptions of the

public are valuable as the memorial will reflect not only the stories and perceptions of

those directly involved, but of all who witnessed the event as it occurred. The winning

entry in the design competition for the Oklahoma City National Memorial was created by

designers and architects who had never viewed the site of the Murrah Building in person,

only experiencing the event via the television and reproduced materials. Yet, through a

' Baudrillard, 24.

selection committee, it was chosen by many of those who were there when the blast

occurred, and now stands at the site. Despite the difference between experiencing an event

directly and indirectly, the inclusion of indirect witnesses in the process is a validation of

the legitimacy of witnessing an event from a distance.

In recent years, witnesses within the general public have greatly outnumbered

those who are present when events of this nature take place. However, these individuals

are not to be discounted. Every participant in the creation of an institution dedicated to

memory has a specific background in regard to the event in question. Historically, many

memorials have been established well after the subject has faded into memory. As time

passes, and specifics pass as those who experienced them do, organizers have little choice

but to utilize individuals who have experience that is derived from secondary sources. The

resulting memorial, in such a case, is forced into existence by way of what information has

survived through years of indecision after myths have been created and many realities

have faded. In more recent cases, memorials have sprung up relatively quickly, while

memories are fresh and hundreds, if not thousands of individual memories and experiences

are available. From this vast library of memory an accurate and detailed representation or

retelling can be molded. It is only through the involvement of all of the constituencies that

memory can be accurately captured within the creation of a memorial.


Memorials have been a part of societies throughout the world for millennia, but

have changed, becoming remarkably complex in the last century. Rather than serving

merely as markers, historical placeholders, memorials have metamorphasized into

symbolic museums to memory. As more individuals have become involved, memorials

have taken on greater challenges and have become multifaceted, reflecting the great interest

of society in the act of recalling and preserving history.

It is rare that historical events progress in a neat, orderly line of development, and

this holds true in the historical progression of memorialization. The greatest example of

this is the absence of a national memorial to the veterans and victims of the Second World

War. While there are many memorials that relate to the war i.e. Holocaust memorials,

the Pearl Harbor Memorial, and various battlefield memorials in Europe that have been

largely forgotten by Americans over the past sixty years the push for a memorial in

the United States is relatively recent. This new interest in creating a memorial to the

veterans of World War II was spurred on by the dramatic Hollywood interpretation of

the events ofD-Day, Saving Private Ryan. Ironically, the film was directed by Steven

Spielberg, the creator Schindler's List, another highly acclaimed film centered on the

events of the Second World War, and a movie that has drawn attention in regard to


In the summer of 1996, Shimon Attie installed his project The Walk ofFame in
The writing of Stephen Ambrose has also had this effect the popularization of historical events much
in the way films have led to increased interest in history.

Krak6w, as a parody of the well-known Hollywood homage to film and television stars of

the same title.2 While his intent was not to discredit Spielberg's film, he sought to bring

the differences of film and reality to light in an area of Krak6w where a film-based tour

had been organized. Attie's installation consisted of twenty-five five pointed stars, placed

throughout the area in which Spielberg set had been constructed. Imbedded in each star

was a small silhouette of a movie camera and the name of a survivor off of Schindler's

list. "It is one thing to add the history of the film with the history of events, another to

displace the history of events with the history of the film," James Young writes. "Attie

worries that 'as actual history becomes conflated with cinematic fiction, it becomes more

and more difficult to distinguish between the two."'3

While there are many memorials centered on the events of the Holocaust, the

absence of a national memorial dedicated to those who fought for the United States in

World War II was accentuated by Saving Private Ryan, and since then a push for a

national memorial has led to the construction of a new national memorial, but in a fashion

unlike other recent memorial drives this bid is sponsored by Wal-Mart, with actor

Tom Hanks as spokesperson. One of the differences is in the time factor. Nearly sixty

years after the end of the war, emotions and memories are not fresh in the minds of those

who were there. Thus the drive to memorialize has diminished over time. Therefore, as

the traumas experienced by those who fled the burning towers of the World Trade Center

in 2001 are fresh, though always diminishing, the memorial process is more personal to

those driving to create a memorial and therefore it is less likely to become commercially


2Young, James E. At Memory's Edge, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000: 85-89.
3ibid., 85.
4 National World War II Memorial, "President Signs Legislation to Expedite Construction of the WWII
Memorial." This and other press releases concerning the memorial are found on the National WWII
Memorial website, http://www.wwiimemorial.com.

In understanding the changes that the modern American memorial process has

undergone in the last century, culminating in the current competition for the design of a

World Trade Center memorial, it is important to discuss the various projects that have

influenced more recent projects. As the World Trade Center process is not yet realized,

the best example of a present-day, completed memorial space in the United States is the

Oklahoma City National Memorial. Thus, the historical influences discussed here will

relate to the finished product in Oklahoma, broken into three categories Holocaust

memorials, delayed memorials, and the representation of individuality in memorials.

Memorials to the Holocaust are plentiful in the United States and around the

world. This is not surprising as it stands as the event that claimed more victims than any

other in modern history approximately six to seven million Jews and an estimated

three to four million others (Gipsies, Communists, and Soviet and Polish soldiers) in

camps across eastern Europe.5 Holocaust memorials, as a rule, generally refer only to the

victims of the Nazi crusade to rid Europe of the Jews. The best known memorials are

those that are site-specific. Many of the concentration and work camps created by the

Nazis have been preserved as memorials to those who were victimized and as they exist

at the locations themselves, they prove to be the most powerful realizations of Holocaust

memory. Other important war sites many structures and locations utilized by the

Nazis during the war sit as though the war had ended recently, abandoned, and as

Foote describes, "scarred permanently by shame."6

In the years since the war's end and the relocation of many Holocaust survivors

and their families, museums and memorials have been constructed around the world, with

varying concepts. Most notable are the German Countermonuments structures that

test the monument tradition minimalist monuments that draw attention to themselves,
s Grynberg, Henryk. "Appropriating the Holocaust," Commentary (November 1982): 5.
6 Foote, 3-4.

that are "brazen and self-conscious" and thus call into question the narrow views

monuments have exhibited over the centuries.7 Jochen Gerz's first countermemorial,

EXIT/Materialien zum Dachau Projekt, a 1972 installation in Bochum, Germany, sought

to bridge memory of the past with the experience of the present day. Gerz's work

consisted of two rows of tables, each with a chair, twenty sets in all. Located on each

table was an album, filled with photographs of the Dachau Concentration Camp. Each

album, beginning with a photograph of an exit sign and a sign displaying the "memorial

site regulations," was filled with recent tourist photographs that relayed the site as a

memorial, not as a historical landmark.8 Through the photographs taken by Gerz while at

the site, he relayed an experience of memory memory of his personal experience of the

site as a memorial, not memory of past events. This installation, as with many of his

works that would follow (including collaborations with his wife, Esther Shalev-Gerz)

tested the definition of memory, forcing visitors to memorials to consider their own

experiences as consequential. This was accomplished by only showing photographs of

the aspects of the site unique to the memorial, not to the past being preserved -

photographs of exit signs, restrooms, and other non-historic aspects of the memorial.

While the Gerzes desired to draw attention to the factor of time in their 1986

Monument Against Fascism, they also sought to place the weight of memory on the

visitor, rather than on a eternal memorial, an object or site designed specifically as a

receptacle for memory. Without the visitor, the object would have remained blank.

Through the visitors' willingness to add their comments to the structure, and do so in the

time allotted, the memorial was complete. The minimalist obelisk, lowered permanently

into the ground on November 10, 1993, was no longer available, and thus all experiences

7 Young, The Texture of Memory, 27.
8 Young, At Memory's Edge, 122-3.

provoked by the site could no longer be resurrected through another visit, but only

through the personal memories of those who had already been.9

The newly completed Jewish Museum Extension to the Berlin Museum is another

recent memorial that evokes architectural planning as an extension of memory. Like Gerz,

Daniel Libeskind based the plan of his structure in this case an extension to an already

existing museum on symbolic attributes of the subject of the memorial. This addition

to the Berlin Museum embodies the minimalist and symbolic attributes of so many

memorial structures of late. As with the chairs in Oklahoma and the black granite wall of

the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the minimalism of the Jewish Museum is unique and

simplistically symbolic.'0 The building itself is jagged, cut-through, and chaotic. Young

writes, "In its series of complex trajectories, irregular linear structures, fragments, and

displacements, this building is also on the verge of unbecoming a breaking down of

architectural assumptions, conventions, and expectations."" The building's structure is

unconventional as it includes numerous walls ending and beginning in unexpected places

and large gashes of wall removed from the side of the structure, creating the only

connection between the interior and exterior of the building. The museum's architecture is,

according to Libeskind, symbolic of the reshaping of the Jewish people following the "jolt

of genocide,"' and that architecture need not only be representative of a single meaning,

but can be the opposite representative of the quest to establish meaning.

The structure as a memorial to the Berlin Jews of the Second World War is very

9 ibid., 130-2.
'0 ibid., 207-216. Another interesting design that embodies these attributes is the proposed Berlin
Holocaust Memorial by Peter Eisenman and Richard Serra. The design consisted of thousands of concrete
pillars set across a field.
ibid., 163. There were 165 designs submitted during the design competition for the Jewish Museum
Extension and despite the jury's opinion that it was complex and possibly not able to be built, it was
accepted as the winning entry.
12 ibid.

telling when contemplating the concept of the "void," as discussed in the first chapter.

The void for which the memorial stands is the absence of the Jewish people immediately

following the Holocaust. Libeskind, fifty years after the close of the war, sought to fill the

void by exposing the void itself. Many sections of the building are highlighted by slices of

missing wall and the interior space created by the walls call attention to large empty areas.

It has also been suggested that the jagged line of the building is representative of the

broken backbone of Berlin."

Often in history, there has been a reluctance on the behalf of the public or select

constituencies to memorialize certain events, usually as an event itself is not viewed

favorably in the eyes of present-day society. This is apparent is memorial subjects

discussed earlier the Boston Massacre, and the early history of the Mormons.

However, one recent such memorial quandary has had influence on the way Americans

have memorialized in the last quarter-century. For years the attack on Pearl Harbor on

December 7, 1941 was viewed an embarrassing defeat for an American nation that was

supposed to harbor great military strength and overwhelming superiority.14 The site was

not marked in any fashion for nine years following the attack. Many of the vessels were

repaired and sent back to sea and the the idea of a public memorial delayed by the United

States Navy, to which the land belonged. While there were several early attempts at

memorializing those who perished in the attack that drew America into World War II,

they were created for those in the Navy, and not accessible to the public who could not

gain access to the site still under military control. Beginning in 1951 a flag flew daily, over

the resting place of the USS Arizona. This was the first sign of a memorial at the site.

Eleven years later, in 1962, under the direction of the National Park Service, a memorial

3 ibid., 165.
4 Foote, 279.

was dedicated, created in remembrance of the victims, and not of the attack." As time

passed, and the condition of the sunken ship began to deteriorate, the Navy began to seek

a memorial solution, stressing that those who died needed a more fitting memorial than the

ship in which many were still entombed.6

The process of memorializing the events and the victims of December 7, 1941 did

not take as long to memorialize as the previously mentioned historical events, but has

certainly served as a reminder to modem-day memorial committees that the process can

drag on if not approach carefully. As Foote states, "experience made it easier for

Americans to decide which events fit their myth of origins and how best to mark them.

More than the other sites do, however, Pearl Harbor shows how the meaning of

America's civil shrines has to be modified to meet the demands of varying

constituencies."" While the initial notion that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a defeat did

not support the American ideal of preparedness and strength, the most influential

constituency in this case the military was able to redefine the story of Pearl Harbor

to fit the national myth of the creation of the nation. By assigning the memorial process

the purpose of remembering the great sacrifice those who died in the attack had made in

protecting the freedom of the United States, the focus was taken off of the defeat, a very

un-American ideal, and onto sacrifice for freedom, a core American belief.

Therefore, the high volume of discussion that has revolved around the planning of

the September 11 memorials and the Oklahoma project has aided in speeding the process

along keeping those closely affected by the event informed and involved and allowing

for a multiplicity of views to aid in the direction of the memorial purpose. Thus the

ibid., 278-283. The current memorial was dedicated in 1962, the visitor's center was not complete until
16 ibid., 280.

17 ibid., 283.

memorial mission is created quickly and within the national or cultural myths that give

support to the creation of memorials in the United States. Constant communication

allows the many constituencies involved in such events to have the opportunity, through

open dialogue, to learn of the experiences of one another, through which each group or

individual's memorial motives are understood.

The third historical subject through which modern memorials are profoundly

influenced is in the representation of individuality in memorials the growing tradition

of names and numbers. Increasingly, memorials, monuments, historical markers, and

museums attempt to portray the enormity of an event through the use of individual

names or the symbolic interpretation of the numbers of individuals involved. Several

letters written to the Frank Keating, Oklahoma Governor, directly following the bombing

of the Murrah Building, expressed the need for a memorial to adequately express how

many 168 people are."1 The use of many names in memorial situations came to be popular

after the close of the First World War. The Allies determined that each soldier killed in the

war should be remembered as an individual, not as a nameless victim in a war with an

extremely high number of victims. The result is a number of memorials created throughout

the battlefields of Europe. One such memorial is located in Theipval, in France. The

memorial at Theipval was created by Sir Edwin Lutyen in 1924 and memorializes those

British Soldiers who perished there at the Battle of Sommes in 1916." The graves of 600

British and French soldiers, also located at the site, sit before an enormous arch on which

the 73, 367 names of the British soldiers killed in battle are inscribed.20 A similar site -

Oklahoma City National Memorial Archives, 1003/box4 (Texas-Wyoming).
" Hawkins, 134.
20 Theipval Visitor Centre d'Acceuil Somme, "At Last a Visitor Centre at Theipval,"
http://www.Theipvalorg.uk/. After nearly eighty years, the French and British governments have decided
to add context to the site through a visitor's center.

another World War I memorial is located at the Mene gate at Ypres, where 54,896

names are inscribed.

This tradition has carried on and is exemplified in two more recent historical

predecessors to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and the World Trade Center

Memorial. The first is in Maya Lin's Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, where 57,939 names

presented on a v-shaped wall of black granite. Lin attributes her design to "her meditation

on the particular eloquence of the World War I cemeteries,"'2 but can also be attributed to

the work of Claes Olenburg, whose proposed Colossal Monument of Concrete Inscribed

with Names of Warheroes, In the Intersection of Canal Street and Broadway also sought

to display the names of those involved in the conflict, only on a much larger scale.22 The

quest to memorialize the Vietnam War, highly controversial as a conflict and equally as

charged as a memorial project, was headed by Jan Scruggs, a Vietnam veteran who eagerly

put together a group to lobby Congress, intent on raising the funds necessary to begin a

memorial competition. More than 275,000 donations were collected and some 1,400

entries reviewed before Lin's minimalist design was selected." While the number of

entries to the contest in Oklahoma numbered 624,24 an estimated 1,400 unsolicited entries

had been received earlier." All five of the finalists in Oklahoma offered designs that

embodied minimalist attributes.

An often overlooked and remarkable aspect of Lin's design is in the arrangement

of the names. Her memorial is minimalist lacking detail that directs the visitor's
21 Hawkins, 134.

22 Modema Museet. Claes Olenburg: Skulpturer och Teckningar, Stockholm: Moderna Museet, 1966: 17.
Olenburg's 1965 proposal included the names of those involved in the war from all nations, not only the
United States.
23 Howe, Robert F. "Monumental Achievement." Smithsonian (November 2002): 94.
24 Linenthal, 206.
25 Oklahoma City National Memorial Archives, letters. An early fundraising letter indicates that these
entries were sent in from 50 states and 22 countries.

thinking, instead allowing the visitor to project his or her feelings regarding the subject

onto the memorial" and names are her only details. Initially she needed to fight the

design committee to retain her design's arrangement of the names, but it has proved

worthwhile, as the concept behind her ordering of the names has inspired symbolic use of

individual representations elsewhere. This influence is evident in the order of the chairs at

the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Lin argued that to list the dead and missing in

alphabetical order would be to detract from the memorial experience. The names were

envisioned by Lin as they are today listed in chronological order, beginning at the

center of the wall with the first American fatality in 1959, working eastward to the end of

the wall, resuming at the far west end, and closing again at the center with the last

casualty in 1975. Symbolically, the names begin and end together, representing closure,

but at the same time presenting the war as it happened in chronological order -

without disrupting the design aspect by creating an alphabetical monotony.27

This concept of ordering is resurrected in the plan of the chairs at the Oklahoma

City National Memorial. The chairs are arranged to reflect the location of each victim at

the time of the explosion, placed in nine rows to mirror the height of the building. Several

chairs are gathered away from the others, on a small hill, demonstrating their proximity to

the structure, as the these victims were not within the building, but on the outside.

Maya Lin's memorial also demonstrates the trouble with choosing a jury, or

committee, to oversee the planning and selection phase that is not representative of the

many constituencies involved. As a result, Lin's minimalist memorial was viewed by the

general public, including many veterans, as elitist." Paul Spreiregen, who would later be

26 Again, see Gerz's countermonuments as an example of the concept of projecting one's own memory onto
memorial structures.
27 Howe, 95.

28 Hawkins, 135.

fired from the Oklahoma City project as a result of his unwillingness to involve the

community, selected the professional jury." This move resulted in the committee's

inability to reflect the views of any other constituency the "audience" as discussed

earlier had no voice in the selection process. Public outcry surrounding Lin's memorial

was so unrelenting that in 1982 a popular and traditional statute, representing three

soldiers, was erected. However, the sculpture, by artist Frederick Hart, though receiving

many visitors each year, does not measure up to the steady streams of visitors who pass

along the wall.30 Though public opinion has changed, and the memorial is quite popular at

this time, the public outcry created by the process of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

served as a warning to those working on the early plans for the Oklahoma City Memorial,

resulting in the selection of committees based on a democratic system.

One reality that Lin did not anticipate when her design was selected was the

incredible number of objects that would be left behind at the memorial. Peter Hawkins

writes, "Lin believed that the names themselves would be the Vietnam Veterans

Memorial, requiring no embellishment. What she did not take into account was that

mourners would try to give those names the keepsakes of identity,as if to restore to the

dead the intimate worlds they had lost."3' The public that had rebelled against the

minimalist memorial in the beginning had discovered a way to make the site more

personal. The infusion of personal memoryinto a structure has made Lin's successors

successful in their minimalist approaches to memorialization. The tradition of names

spawned a new tradition, in leaving behind personal artifacts and sentiments a tradition

that has an important role in recent memorials, both complete and in progress.

Another important example in the evolution of the representation of individuality
Howe, 95.
0 Hawkins, 135.
1 ibid., 135.

in memorials is the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. The project began in 1985

when Cleve Jones, founder of NAMES, thought that perhaps if people could better

understand the concept of "one thousand deaths," if they could see one thousand

visually. Initially, Jones simply asked participants in a San Francisco march to write on a

card the name of a person they knew, who had died of AIDS. "These were then hung on

the facade of the federal building. The effect was stunning: a wall of memory that, simply

by naming names, exposed both private loss and public indifference."32 The AIDS Quilt,

an offshoot of the original cards, has grown into a mobile memorial that consists of

thousands of names. In 1992 there were enough quilt squares (each created for one

person), to fill the Washington Mall.33

Jones is in a unique situation in the tradition of memorialization in that he has

very little precedent in the memorialization of disease. While war and disaster memorials

are heavy with tradition, Jones was able to grasp what concepts fit the AIDS Epidemic

- the expression of numbers and individuality and leave others aside. Making

reference to Lin, in his use of names to express numbers and individuality, Jones steps

away from the few existing memorials to disease epidemics. Martyr's Park, in Memphis

Tennessee, memorializes those lost to Yellow Fever in the 1870s, but makes no attempt

to name individuals, grouping all of the victims together. The memorial itself-- a

concrete, doorway-like structure was not erected until 1971, one hundred years after

the subject, as an example of a time when the community had come together to defeat an

overwhelming problem. The structure offers very little in the way of historical detail and

does not include any indication of individuality." The NAMES Memorial is always in

32 ibid., 136.

" ibid., 138.
34 Foote, 104-5.

process, capturing the opinions of the public as the event continues to take place as

AIDS continues to claim lives and as squares are added to the quilt.

The Oklahoma City Memorial Foundation's mission statement visualizes an area

that recalls the NAMES Project, as it calls for a specific biographical recollection of

individuals killed in the bombing.

Now, therefore, it is resolved that the Memorial Mission
Statement will include a requirement that one of the components of
the Memorial must be an information center, which, in part, would
include a segment consisting of: (a) biographies of the victims
written by the families of the victims and photographic
representations of the victims, and (b) stories of the survivors
written by the survivors and photographic representations of the

This was realized within the Memorial Center that now occupies the Journal Record

Building. An area is reserved for square shelves on which there rests a photograph, short

biography, and personal artifacts that create an understanding of the individuality of the

victims of the bombing.

The concept of using names to create a better understanding of the personal nature

of an event, as well as the numbers involved, has evolved over the last quarter-century.

Memorials proposed, designed, and implemented in the 1980s and 1990s have infused the

use of names into the memorial tradition, and thus, have made memorials that fail to point

out the individuals involved seem sterile, and unknowing of the realities of their own

subject. Monuments that simply point out a site and date, standing as bookmarks in the

physical landscape and in the figurative landscape of time, no longer satisfy the public

need to become close to a memorial subject. The combination of names, of exact numbers

and individuals, coupled with the interpretive openness of minimalist architecture and

design, allow visitors to easily derive personal experiences from today's memorials.

3 Oklahoma City Memorial Foundation, "Memorial Mission Statement," November 14, 1995.


Without the tradition of names, as well as the notion that memorials should be conceived

while memories remain fresh, today's memorials would stand as immovable in

interpretation as the obelisks and markers of centuries ago.


Recent American memorials have taken into account numerous constituencies, the

significance of site and its redefinition, and the effects of time on the memorial process.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial and the process through which it was created has

set a trend for current projects. This results from its historical predecessors as previously

discussed, as well as the nature of the event itself.

The bombing occurred at 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995. As those who worked in

the Murrah Building were arriving at work, as the children of many employed there were

beginning their day at a day-care center located on the second floor, a Ryder truck

carrying a 4,800 pound ammonium nitrate fuel oil bomb was detonated at the north

entrance of the building. The blast radiated outward, destroying two-thirds of the

building, the parking lot across Fifth Street, and damaging several buildings in the

surrounding area. The truck itself was demolished and an eight-foot deep and thirty-foot

wide crater created at the time of the explosion.' In the explosion 168 people were killed,

nineteen of whom were children. An additional 398 people injured, and given medical


The blast was felt as far away as Norman, Oklahoma, a small city approximately

25 miles away. The entirety of Oklahoma City was shaken, the blocks immediately
' Oklahoma City, The City of. Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Bombing, April 19, 1995 Final Report,
Oklahoma City: Fire Protection Publications, Oklahoma State University, 1996: 10-12.

2 Oklahoma City National Memorial Archives, 168/box2, Notes & statistics for the purpose of an
international design competition. 82 of those treated for injuries had severe enough injuries to warrant
hospitalization. Millions witnessed, via television coverage, the injured survivors emerging from the ruins
of the building.

surrounding the blast site in disarray. Glass, dust, and various pieces of cars and the

building's contents littered the area. The center facade of the building, closest to the

location of the truck, had been reduced to a pile of rubble, spilling out into the street. The

scene was, as Edward Linenthal who has written extensively on the bombing -

described, reminiscent of "images of Beirut of other cities laid waste by terrorist acts."3

In the hours following the explosion, the nation was overrun by images of the destruction

and of the survivors emerging from the ruins.

In the days that followed, the space formerly occupied by the Murrah building

was in the process of becoming a memorial. The site represented one of America's

greatest outpourings of support to a community in crisis. Spontaneous memorials -

collections of objects, pictures, cards and personal items began to spring up around the

site and at various locations touched by the event, created from objects and messages

from around the world, as well as those from the immediate area. The most visited of

these was located at the edge of the "safety perimeter." National Guardsmen constructed

a makeshift shelter for the items left by hundreds of visitors to the site. Another such

memorial took shape at the YMCA Building, and still others in close proximity to

locations affected by the blast.4

Another sign of spontaneity appeared in graffiti in several places around the site.

In one such instance the words "Bless the children and the innocent" were scrawled along

a wall of the ruins of the Murrah building.5 As this message was destroyed when the

remains of the building was imploded, it today exists only in photographs, well

documented in the museum today housed in the Journal Records Building. A second such

message was spray-painted on the side of the Journal Records Building itself. Dated
3 Linenthal, 8.

4 ibid., 119.
5 ibid., 120.

"4/19/95" and signed "Team 5," a rescue team at the site, it reads:

We search for the truth.
We seek Justice.
The courts require it.
The victims cry for it.
And GOD demands it!

This statement remains intact, marked by a small plaque, preserving one of the initial

reactions to those working to rescue those still trapped inside the building and to recover

those who were lost.

Another type of spontaneous memorial arose through the efforts of the rescuers as

they worked their way through the building in the rescue and later recovery efforts. While

the memorial is well known as the result of unwavering dedication on the part of those

involved in its conception, realization, and implementation, there is another theme that

carried throughout the site's transformation that is of equal importance. Through the days

of rescue, recovery, cleanup and demolition, construction and renewal, all of the parties

involved found a way to work with one another and demonstrate concern for each point

of view involved. With in hours of the destruction, what emerged from the warlike

environment was not a confused, unorganized, and dangerous scene, but a rescue and

recovery that played out as though scripted.

In visiting the memorial fence in 2003 one does not only find the teddy bears and

photos that have become commonplace at such "leave-behind memorial" sites, but an

inordinate number of law enforcement badges, patches, and hats. This is the result of

what has become one of the enduring legends of the bombing itself-- that, despite one

life lost in the minutes immediately following the bombing, the rescue and recovery

played out exactly as emergency "first-responders" trained for such a situation. No other

lives were lost. Various emergency agencies, volunteers, and national guardsmen worked

together to complete their task quickly and with a degree of success that was unlikely in

such an unstable structure. It has become the model emergency disaster response.6

This great coordination of efforts was made visible early on. From the skeleton of

the Murrah Building flags began to emerge, representing the agencies and branches of the

armed forces that had once occupied the building. Intermingled with these appeared the

state flags of those who had volunteered from around the nation. While these flags

created a statement of unity, they also actualized an early memorial to both those who

died and those who rushed to the assistance of those who survived. This would later

become a theme of the museum and the memorial constructed on the same site. The flags

are preserved within the museum, presented alongside photographs of their original

locations on the Murrah Building.

The fence continues to be the most popular of the spontaneous memorials at the

site. While the fence is similar to other memorials, in that sites such as the Vietnam

Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. draw such gifts and "leave-behinds," it has a

history as a part of the initial reaction to the bombing and not simply as the end result of a

quest for a memorial at the site. Linenthal writes,

The fence in Oklahoma City was initially constructed to do what
fences do restrict access first to a crime scene, then to a
hazardous site, and then to a space that became, for some, "sacred
ground. One family member said, "The fence was a perimeter of a site
too horrible to get close to. It protected us from further physical harm
and even symbolic hard in that it held us back from getting nearer to
something incomprehensible.7

After the memorial had been constructed, a portion of the fence was placed at the west

end of the site as a permanent "leave-behind" memorial, intermingling the planned

6 Jane Thomas spoke of the high number of objects placed on the fence by first responders and of several
discussions that she and other staff members have had with emergency workers visiting the memorial from
across the nation.

7 Linenthal, 165-166.

memorial the end result of the process with the beginning, the fence memorial. The

fence has become such an important part of the memorial that it has a separate collection

policy from the memorial museum. Every object placed on the fence is photographed and

accessioned into the permanent collection of the museum. The objects remain on the

fence for thirty days, after which they are removed, catalogued and placed in the


An incredible volume of mail was received in the days, weeks and months

following the bombing, suggesting how, when, and even if the event should be

memorialized. Letters, design plans, drawings, and artwork poured into the Mayor's

office, the Governor's office, the White House, as well as into the hands of various other

representatives. The problem addressed by every one of these letters, though each unique

in design or suggestion, was the redefinition of the space that was once occupied by the

Murrah Federal Building.9 The suggestions broke down into several categories, the most

important of which are: Parks or public spaces, children's memorials, symbolic

memorials, rebuilding, and inaction. While these ideas were not official submissions to

what would soon after become the official competition, the Oklahoma City Memorial

Foundation took the pulse of the public through these letters and ideas as well as many

other organized meetings and surveys.

Parks and public spaces proved to be the most popular memorial idea early on.

Many suggestions seemed intent on the concept of creating something peaceful from an

event so chaotic and violent. The use of actual pieces of rubble from the Murrah Building

8 Oklahoma City National Memorial Archives, Memorial Fence Collection Policy. The collection policy is
an internal document used by the staff to determine when to remove items from the fence. Items that
reference an individual victim can remain for a greater length of time. Other items have become permanent
fixtures, such as a plaque remembering the victims of the victims of the events of September 11,2001.
9 Oklahoma City National Memorial Archives, 1003/boxl-1003/box4, Unsolicited Memorial Ideas. The
statistics and general comments regarding the unsolicited memorial ideas in this paper are derived from this
location in the archives. Any opinions, quotes, or facts derived from other sources are noted as such.

came up frequently, one letter suggesting that slabs of the building itself be used in the

creation of a pathway. Overwhelmingly, those in favor of creating a park had an interest

in the memorial being inclusive and not limited to representing a narrow viewpoint, an

idea that was shared by the memorial task force early on." It was this spirit of inclusion

that led the memorial to offer both a museum and a symbolic memorial. The museum

adequately presents the details surrounding the event, and the symbolic memorial stands

as a place for all to visit regardless of personal associations. Ultimately, the memorial

would become just this, a site that symbolized personal, community, and national loss. It

is this that keeps people visiting in high numbers, even after eight years have passed.

Early submissions also focused on the number of children killed in the building.

Nineteen children lost their lives on the second level, in a day-care center, and many

letters focused on how a memorial would give comfort to the families of children lost as

well as to other kids who did not yet understand the intricacies of the event. The idea of

creating images to comfort for those visiting the site stretched beyond memorialization

for children. The building of a symbolic memorial also proved popular early on. One

letter from a citizen of Missouri stated that the memorial needed to demonstrate to the

world "how many 168 is.""

Two minority opinions were expressed through letters and early unsolicited

memorial submissions as well. The first, the idea of rebuilding, is a less shocking idea in

today's world than it was following the Murrah Building bombing. This is a result of the

definition of the space previous to the bombing. It was very easy for Oklahoma City to

relocate nine floors of federal offices, but it has been very difficult for New York to find

Oklahoma City Memorial Foundation. "Oklahoma City Memorial: An International Design
Competition," Oklahoma City: Oklahoma City Memorial Foundation, 1996: 9. The Task Force had 350
volunteer members, appointed by Mayor Ronald I. Norick. The purpose of the Task Force was to determine
the most appropriate route in creating a memorial at the site.

Oklahoma City National Memorial Archives, 1003/box4 (Texas-Wyoming).

a way to recreate 200 floors of office and retail space in a city with little space to offer.

As New York approves plans to raise new structures on the site of the World Trade

Center, the same arguments are being raised, but by a greater number. There were several

letters focusing on rebuilding the Murrah Building as it once stood. One such letter

plainly states the author's opinion, dated May 30, 1995, a little over a month after the

bombing. He writes:

Dear Sirs, Give the world an idea of how we stand up for our rights.
Putting a memorial in place of that building gives grievers hope? Show
that you will never tolerate terrorism in our country. Rebuild to the last
nail the exact building that was destroyed. In stead of wallowing [in] grief,
rebuild the building.12

Other letters with similar sentiments exist, calling for the rebuilding of the exact

structure, or something bigger, to demonstrate the vitality of the nation and the

community of Oklahoma City."

There also were a small faction of those who felt that nothing should happen at

the site, that the building should be removed and the plot reused. In the words of one,

"[there is] no need for a memorial. This incident should be forgotten." While there are

many militias and like-organizations sympathetic to the cause of those who perpetrated

the bombing,4 the suggestions of those in favor of not responding did not claim to favor

the bombing itself. Rather, the letters relayed the opinion that the public did not need a

memorial. The families, as one submission suggested, were free to memorialize their

loved ones at a grave site, but not on public land.

The second minority opinion that was present in early memorial submissions was

a tendency toward inaction. There were several people who wrote in requesting that the
12 Oklahoma City National Memorial Archives, 1003/boxl (Alaska Louisiana).

Linenthal writes on this subject as well, citing many letters in the archives that associate personal
experiences, such as the loss of a house in a fire, with their opinion that the building should be rebuilt.
Pages 135-140 in his book discuss these views.

ruins of the building not be touched, that the image of the travesty committed against

America should be left silent and undisturbed. This opinion represented a small a

minority. A worker who had labored in shoring up the building during the rescue and

recovery phases following the explosion commented, "I was flabbergasted. The idea that

this terminally damaged building could be left up was ridiculous.""5 While preservation of

destruction is not a new idea we have such a memorial at Pearl Harbor in the ruins of

Naval vessels, viewable from above the image of the building, it's location, and the

structural uncertainty would not permit such action. It was an idea supported by many,

citing that it was not only an event of violence, but one that resulted in the coming

together of a community. The families, survivors, and the rescue workers who risked

their lives within the wounded structure did not agree with the minority opinion of those

sympathizing with the perpetrators, and thus there was little argument when the building

was imploded at 7:01 A.M., on May 23, 1995.

The memorial at the site of the bombing in Oklahoma City is the end result of a

tireless effort to rein in the many constituencies attempting to have a hand in the creation

of what would not only replace the Murrah building, but what would represent the event

itself. As this representation would need to fit the memories of so many, it needed to

make sense to all of the groups closely involved in the tragedy. Early on, there was much

disagreement within the groups represented the families of victims, the survivors, the

community, those who witnessed the event, and even those who sympathized with the

perpetrators of the bombing. Ultimately, the complexities among these groups, as well as

within them, were overcome through a careful study of the constituencies themselves by

the memorial foundation.

" Linenthal, 140. Jerry Ennis, quoted by Linenthal, worked with Boldt Construction as they made the
building safer for those working inside.

As not much time had passed since the bombing, the beginning of the memorial

process did not run smoothly emotional meetings were unproductive and left many

frustrated.6 An early step toward the creation of a memorial at the site outraged the

majority of the constituencies involved. This occurred when Paul Spreiregen, a

Washington D.C. architect, was hired by the design committee to oversee the memorial

process. His work on several other projects, most notably the Maryland Vietnam

Veterans Memorial and the Boston Government Center, made Spreiregen a desirable

candidate. He accepted the offer and created a document, entitled "The Operation Plan

for a National, Open, Design Competition." The forty-four page manuscript was

delivered to the committee on January 10, 1996, and a mere eight days later the

committee's response came back in the form of a letter. "After considerable thought," the

letter advised, "and painful deliberations, we have concluded that while you have an

admirable reputation as a design competition advisor, we do not universally share the

same philosophical approach to the design selection process as it relates to community


The community had been upset by Spreiregen's hiring because his plan had

suggested that all of those serving as jurors on the design selection panel would be of

professional design background, and would only meet with survivors and families as a

means of adequately representing them on the committee. Dubbed "a moment of truth,"

the committee quickly gained the trust of the constituencies involved through their

disposal of Spreiregen's plan. While the problems that lay ahead for the committee would

be trying, the fact that the families, survivors, and others involved in the bombing had a

voice in the process in the form of public meetings, representatives on the design

committee, and regular updates on all progress made in the quest for a memorial made
16 ibid., 178.

17 ibid., 186-187.

for a smooth transition as the memorialization project moved from the initial setup phase

to a time full of difficult decisions regarding who and what was to be memorialized, and

what methods would be acceptable to all.

The biggest obstacle faced by the Murrah Federal Building Memorial Task Force

(later the Oklahoma City Memorial Foundation) came with the need to devise a system

through which a "survivor" of the bombing would be defined for the purposes of creating

a memorial at the site. As the idea of setting boundaries to survivorship was, as would be

expected, a sensitive subject, the task was approached with care. Plans solidified to create

a document titled Survivor Definition for Purposes of Fulfilling the Memorial Mission

Statement, to find a definitive answer to questions referring to those who had lived

through the bombing on various levels.

The Survivor Definition Subcommittee expressed concern regarding the

individual experiences through which one would define his or her own role in the events

of April 15. The consensus was that many would be alienated by the exclusion of many

of those who considered themselves among the survivors, or by the inclusion of so many

that the term would render the idea of survivorship meaningless. The subcommittee

tiptoed, respectfully, between the two extremes, and was successful in that the

committee's collective eye was focused on the memorial mission statement and the

perception that survivors provide a link to the event itself that is unparalleled.

Survivorship was approached in levels. Early on, the committee understood the

complexities of involvement in the bombing, and defined survivors in several categories.

The categorization of those who lived through the blast created a hierarchy, or level of

prestige among the survivors themselves. Each level or category was to be presented in

the memorial in a distinct way. The first level, the highest level of survivorship would

eventually attain placement within the symbolic memorial itself. A wall of names (see

Figure 4), attached to the foundation of the Murrah Building, today presents those who

were physically adjacent to the site at the moment of the explosion or were physically

injured, regardless of proximity.8 Each ensuing level served to provide a place for those

who suffered in a lesser fashion, without simply excluding their struggles from the

memorial experience. A faceted definition created an atmosphere of inclusion within the

constituencies involved in the memorial process, rather than a divisive definition an

all-inclusive perimeter, or at the other end of the spectrum a narrow allowance.

As discussed earlier, the memorial process is driven by the factors of time, space,

and the constituencies involved. As a result of the massive amounts of media coverage,

the graphic pictures broadcast on television, and the large number of people in the area at

the time of the bombing, there were many effected in strictly a visual manner. This is

what made it so incredibly difficult to create perimeters of survivorship. The lines

between survivor and witness were blurred by the wide reach of the event. Media

coverage of the bombing created a larger constituency of witnesses than the nation had

ever seen.

Letters were received by the committee regarding closing Fifth Street, creating a

memorial for the nation, and relaying other ideas that demonstrated concern for the

community that had witnessed the event. Many wrote in expressing their thoughts on

what it means to be a survivor, expressing that witnessing an act of terror on television or

in person without being physically wounded did not necessarily discount one from

psychological survivorship.

Several attempts were made, soon after the bombing, to bring together the

families of those who had perished in the blast with those who had managed to escape the
" By physically adjacent to the site, the committee referred to the immediate proximity of the following
structures: The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building; Athenian Building; Center City Station Post Office
Building; First Methodist Church; Journal Record Building; Oklahoma Water Resources Building; St.
Joseph's Catholic Church and Rectory; YMCA Building; and other locations within the immediate area.
These Buildings all suffered damage in the explosion.

building. A series of "Family/Survivor Liaison Meetings" were organized, taking place in

1995 and 1996.9 Following these initial meetings, the group began to hold various social

outings and took part in ceremonies and events on the site of the memorial.

The only group that is far removed from the other constituencies is the faction

representing the perpetrators or sympathizers with those who planned and implemented

the bombing of the Murrah Building. Though this group was not directly represented at

public forums and on committees, those who sympathized with those who bombed the

Murrah Building voiced their views on television and through letters to public officials.

Interviewing and discovering the "militia culture" in the United States had become a hot

topic after the bombing and brought the extreme views of the perpetrators into the open.20

To both identify and then ostracize the culprit of the Oklahoma City event was much

easier than other past events. The perpetrators, through their own words and actions, as

well as their portrayal in the media as "right-wing extremists," separated them from all

other Americans.

This constituency the perpetrator with claims of patriotism is not new.

Defining the constituencies, and creating a memorial early, aid in the definition of the

role of the perpetrator as well. Kenneth Foote, author of Shadowed Ground: America's

Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy, discusses other cases in which armed conflict with

the government has been glorified to avoid disturbing events that have found generally

positive place in American history. He cites events such as the Boston Massacre and the

uprising at Harper's Ferry as events in which the perpetrators can also be described as

victims. Foote writes that "if read too closely they seemed to support a citizen's right to

9 Oklahoma City National Memorial Archives, 168/box2, Oklahoma City Murrah Building Survivors
Association notes. Five Family/Survivor meetings took place in 1995, the first only weeks after the
bombing. The last two were held in early 1996.
20 Linenthal, 24.

lead armed insurrections against the government."2 Indeed gathering support for a

memorial that has such complicated constituencies is a difficult endeavor. The end results

of such events typically justify the means (John Brown, leader of the Harper's Ferry

uprising, was pardoned by President Rutherford B. Hayes on January 13, 1880)22.

However, memorializing an event provokes inquiry into subjects that may need to remain

historically skin deep if only to remain positive in the eyes of the majority. In such cases,

investigation of the event as well as thoughtful, provoking presentations of history are

difficult to find.

The perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing were instantly demonized, well

before the public knew the now familiar faces of those convicted. By dehumanizing those

who carried out the bombing, the other constituencies were brought closer together, as

they perceived themselves as one-in-purpose. This does not mean that the perpetrators

had no sympathizers. As a nation born out of rebellion, there have always been those who

justify violence as a means of providing freedom for themselves and those with whom

they associate. It is in the reaction of the nation that determines how history will judge

those who carry out such acts of rebellion. America came together as a nation in support

of those injured and killed in the Oklahoma City Bombing, and thus the perpetrators

found little support for their actions.

It was necessary to allow voices from all of the constituencies involved have a

hand in the steps related to the creation of rules, committees, and other governing bodies.

This was important as the memorial could only accurately portray their stories with

unadulterated access to the constituencies themselves. The process was meant to be

reflective of a democratic society, and this aim was accomplished through various means.

21Foote, 278-9.

' This information is contained in John Brown's Presidential Pardon, January 13, 1880, in the collection of
the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, Santa Barbara, CA.

The criteria for the competition to build the symbolic memorial on the site was

spelled out clearly in Oklahoma City Memorial: An International Design Competition, a

publication of the Oklahoma City Memorial Foundation offered to those interested in

participating in the creation of the memorial in 1996. The booklet not only briefed the

public on what had already been debated by various committees concerning how a

memorial would take shape in the city, but also provided the regulations and timeline for

doing so.2 All who had an interest in the process were involved in the creation of the

memorial contest criteria early on. Any individual interested in being a part of the process

was invited to participate through a series of innovative mail-in meetings or

question/answer periods. Each participant then mailed his or her questions regarding the

memorial contest to the Memorial Foundation by a given deadline. The questions were all

addressed and answers were then sent to everyone who expressed an interest. After

several sessions, both the public and the foundation had a firm understanding of what

would be expected in a public memorial built on the site. On January 6, 1997, the public

was briefed for the first time concerning what lay ahead for the site. Previous to the

briefing, the public had only been notified that there would be a question/answer period

deadline of January 6, 1997. All questions offered had to be received by that date. Every

question submitted was answered on paper, reproduced in bulk, and mailed to all who

had submitted questions or interest in taking part in the memorial process. There were

three question/answer periods to follow over a five month period.

The submissions themselves were viewed andjudged in two stages, allowing the

question/answer periods to be available to those who had passed the first stage, but were

eager to improve some aspects of their design. Stage One finalist submissions were due

in March of 1997, and were viewed by the families and survivors first, followed by a
" The information regarding the timeline of events are all covered in the Oklahoma City Memorial
Foundation's Oklahoma City Memorial: An International Design Competition. It is available to the public
as a document preserved in the archives of the memorial's museum.

five-day public viewing and the final viewing and deliberations by the Evaluation Panel.

In a matter of weeks the finalists (also referred to as the Stage Two participants) were

announced on April 19, 1997. Five final designs were chosen to submit more detailed

plans. The final five submissions all evoked a feeling oftimelessness, a characteristic that

was often discussed by the nine member evaluation panel. In their report regarding the

final five designs it was stated that the "common thread throughout is that each of the

selected entries creates a 'place' of remembrance that is timeless, not just an icon whose

meaning and importance diminishes as memories fade."24 As the panel began

deliberating to choose the winning entry, the issue that surfaced most often dealt with

how appropriate the design would be at the site discussions included weather

variables, the depth of knowledge necessary to understand artistic symbolism, and even

the idea that it might not be fitting for a complex memorial to reside in a small city such

as Oklahoma.25

Ultimately, these questions led the panel to decide in favor of a design submitted

by Hans and Torrey Butzer, with the aid of a German associate, Sven Berg. Their design

(see figure 5), despite their late decision to submit an idea (they spent only six weeks on

their submission), presents a feeling of timelessness and captures the moment of the

bombing in a symbolic way. The memorial revolves around individuals as well as the

feeling of community that sprung from the events of April 19, 1995. The Butzers were

living in Germany at the time of the bombing as well as through the duration of the

project, never seeing the site and never experiencing the onslaught of media images to

which those in the United States were subjected. Torrey Butzer explained that their

inability to travel to the site was helpful in their design process. Indicating that they were

24 Oklahoma City National Memorial Archives, Selection Committee Report, March 1997.
- Linenthal, 210-216. Linenthal provides an excellent break down the the five entries as well as the
thoughts of the panel in regard to their final decision.

far removed from the event itself and from the iconic images of the day (the survivor tree,

the baby and fireman), the Butzers were able to "isolate the meaning of the event" and

create a space that is isolated from its surroundings.26

The memorial today evokes this approach. The grounds are split into areas

devoted to different aspects of the site. The survivor tree, while part of the symbolic

memorial, is not a part of the interior "room." This room is created by two walls, one at

each end of the section of Fifth Street that once stretched out in front of the Murrah

Building. The walls bear the inscription of the minute before the bombing, and the minute

after. Thus the moment of the event is defined by space, and represented by both the

outline of Fifth Street, as a reflecting pool, and the footprint of the building (see Figure

6). The footprint is a grassy area, enclosed by the reflecting pool, the two walls, and the

foundation wall of the building. Across the grass, in nine rows (representing the nine

floors on which people perished), 168 individual chairs sit empty, facing Fifth Street, the

source of the disaster. 19 chairs are noticeably smaller, as each represents a child lost in

the explosion (see figure 7). In an area known as "the chapel," a niche beside one of the

walls, the names of the survivors, as defined by the Survivor Definition Committee, are

engraved in stone and placed on the foundation wall. While each chair represents a

specific individual (their names, visible at night, are engraved in each glass base), the

field of chairs is also representative of the number of fatalities. Thus the memorial is

more than a marker for the families of the victims, it is a timeless reminder of the large

number of citizens of the city who lost their lives in a single moment on a specific day.

The memorial today is a frequently visited landmark in Oklahoma. In addition to

the symbolic memorial, a memorial museum opened in 2001, providing a timeline of

events as well as explanation of the outdoor memorial design and the significance of its

- ibid., 216-7.

many aspects. One innovative theme that runs throughout the museum and the memorial

is the importance of visitor interaction with the site itself. While memorials such as the

Vietnam Veterans Memorial have always attracted gifts and "leave-behinds," the

Oklahoma City National Memorial encourages more. The memorial fence does echo

many of the individual acts of remembrance present at other memorial sites, but two

specific locations request messages from the visitors to the site. On the memorial

grounds, there are large blackboards integrated into a path in an area dedicated to

children. Buckets of chalk sit against a tiled wall, available for writing or drawing

thoughts and messages along the path. A similar concept is present inside the museum.

Visitors are encouraged to sign a guest book and to decorate or inscribe a magnetic tile.

The tiles are placed on a wall until space dictates that they are removed and archived in

the museum. Visitors leave with the sense that they have contributed to the space, and

that the site is a place of continuous growth and change. As a nation of witnesses, all are

meant to feel welcome to the continuing memorial process in Oklahoma City.

The contest itself was a turning point in the creation of national memorials as it

represented the first instance of such a widespread effort. In recent years, the Lower

Manhattan Development Corporation has not only heavily utilized the resources available

at the Oklahoma City National Memorial visiting the site and meeting with memorial

staff regarding their experiences in the process but they have also emulated the

competition which was announced in early 2003. This is most evident in New York's

implementation of an international competition and inclusion of representatives of many

constituencies in the process. The most remarkable aspect of the Oklahoma City contest

exists in the foundation's early decision to be inclusive in the overseeing of the entire

process and in turn this has become a model for current memorial projects.


In examining the methods through which memorials have been created in the last

century, we can better understand current projects and the memorials of our future.

Memorials are more often constructed today, rather than the monuments of old stark,

narrow in view and offer a method through which memory can be preserved and

interpreted through individual experience. The redefinition of the space on which

memorials are constructed results from the actions of constituencies from whom

memorials receive an enormous amount of information. These constituencies have been

greatly involved in recent memorial projects and are responsible for the memorials that we

have today memorials that are open to interpretation and replete with information and

personal narratives. Without the lessons of past memorials, and the knowledge of the

inner-workings of recent projects such as the Oklahoma City National Memorial, future

individuals would not be able to learn from the wealth of information and discourse that

remains a part of recent memorials.

The most notable aspect of the April 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, to many in

this nation, is that an American was responsible for that horrific day. It is difficult for

some to comprehend a warlike gesture coming from a fellow countryman,' especially a

man who seemed, in so many ways, an average American a decorated war veteran from

middle America. More recent events have created a face for terrorism that points the

finger away from ourselves, presenting a face behind such acts that allow Americans an

Linenthal,16-40. Chapter 1: Falling into History, discusses the disbelief that the perpetrators were
Americans. Most initial reactions by the press and analysts on television news programs claimed that the
act itself was most assuredly Middle-Eastern in nature.

outlet (of war, retaliation, defensive action). This outlet did not exist in Oklahoma City -

there was no war to be fought, only the same criminal courts that remove ordinary

criminals from society. Many see conviction and execution as a small price for the

devastation caused.

With so much energy to dispel a tremendous void to fill there springs the

most notable, thoughtful, and democratically created memorial in the nation. It is a

testament to the loss and the resolve of the Oklahoma City Community. Their struggle to

create an effective memorial space has proved an example to those currently grappling

with similar issues, though on a larger scale. The memorial that results from the efforts of

those in New York will need to take into account the lessons learned in Oklahoma. As the

process is in its beginning stages, similar committees and organizations are conducting the

business of bringing together the community and searching for commonality in the desires

of each group represented the families, survivors, rescue workers, and the local


An undeniable aspect of recent memorials is that they are tools for teaching future

generations. Through many memorials the struggles of a generation can be made concrete

and provide firsthand knowledge of events that will be viewed through the lens of history.

This eventuality is a known consequence of the memorial process. This is as evident in

the disagreements among those involved in the current push to memorialize the events of

September 11,2001, as in Oklahoma City a short time ago. While Oklahomans

eventually embraced a process that sought to included a variety of individuals, this was

not the initial direction of the process, and New Yorkers are demonstrating the same

misgivings. Peggy Noonan recently asserted, in the Wall Street Journal, that "they [the

World Trade Center Families-of-Victims organization] want it clear that no one was better

than anyone else, that all alike were helpless, victims."2 The decision that so many are

arguing over involves the erection of a statue to honor those who lost their lives while

saving others. This debate stands as an example of the power of time and participants in

the memorial equation. Over time the views of participants change. Much is gained from a

a memorial that is created quickly. Individual memory is easier to recall if recounted

before much time has passed. The memorial can become more about making politically

pressured decisions than accurately portraying the personal narrative and experience.

Noonan's opinion is clear, and tends to reflect the decisions of those who directed the

memorial in Oklahoma. "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 all about, as so much

history attests." Just as Oklahomans struggled to define who a survivor was in the eyes

of history, New Yorkers are struggling with how to adequately differentiate between

those who ran down the stairs of the World Trade Center and those who willingly went


The factor of time has been tested at both extremes in a variety of memorial

situations. While outcomes vary noticeably, we see in many twentieth century memorials

that over time, an event without a stable memorial has little chance of retaining the details

and personal aspects of its history. This is evident in earlier American historical events

such as the Boston Massacre and the history of the Mormons. Once memorialized,

details concerning the importance of such events have become a part of our history,

accepted as historical fact. Promptly developed memorials, such as those regarding the

Vietnam War and the Oklahoma City Bombing, have solidified early views, initial

reactions, and firsthand accounts, enabling the events themselves to be experienced as

2 Noonan, Peggy, "September 11 Today: Looking Back, and Around, 21 Months After the Day That
Changed (nearly) Everything," Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2003.

history. Time is an important aspect in the memorial process, but a delicate one in that it

is not easily controlled. As time passes, years of working closely with other

constituencies on memorial projects may create an atmosphere of unity, however, the

fresh experiences of those who were directly involved in the event are hardened by the

experience of returning to the routines of ordinary life. Thus a memorial created long after

an event will not be created around fresh memories memory that has not changed after

years of returning to the day-to-day routine.

The constituencies involved in memorial building drive the process through their

participation. How the creators are organized greatly influences the outcome. Processes

that involve many individuals from various backgrounds are more likely to produce a

memorial that reflects a multiplicity of viewpoints. The organization of those charged

with the creation of a memorial has a great deal of influence over the redefinition of space.

The space, the visible representation of tragedy, is the most apparent indication of

the void left to be filled by a memorial. The memorial design competition at the World

Trade Center site will offer Americans the most difficult memorial decision in the nation's

history. The destruction of the country's most conspicuous and symbolic structures

creates high expectations about what will occupy the same space. While the successor to

the buildings themselves has been decided, the memorial spaces, the footprints of the

Twin Towers, remain available to the winning entry of the memorial competition. Just as

in Oklahoma City, those affected by the events of September 11 desire this space to be a

place to remember and a place that stands permanently as a teaching tool for future



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Foote, Kenneth. Shadowed Ground, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997.

Gieryn, Thomas F. "Balancing Acts: Science, Enola Gay, and History Wars at the
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Goldberger, Paul. "Requiem: Memorializing Terrism's Victims in Oklahoma," The
New Yorker (January 14,2002): 90-91.

Grynberg, Henryk. "Appropriating the Holocaust," Commentary (November 1982):

Hawkins, Peter S. "Naming Names: The Art of Memory and the NAMES Project
AIDS Quilt," Thinking About Exhibitions, New York: Routledge, 2000: 133-156.

Howe, Robert F. "Monumental Achievement" Smithsonian (November 2002): 91-

Kimmelman, MichaeL "Out of Minimalism, Monuments to Memory," New York
Times (January 13, 2002): 2:1.

King, Shannon. "Survivor Tree Gets a Little TLC," The Oklahoman (February 25,
1998): D:28.

Laub, Dori. "Truth and Testimony," Trauma: Explorations in Memory, Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995: 61-65.


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Figure 1. Oklahoma City National Memorial Fence
Photograph by A.J. Belmont

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Figure 2. Survivor Tree
Photograph by A.J. Belmont

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Figure 3. Survivor Definition Perimeter
Oklahoma City National Memorial Archives

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Figure 4. Survivor Wall, Oklahoma City National Memorial
Photograph by A.J. Belmont

Figure 5. Memorial Model
Oklahoma City National Memorial

Figure 6. Oklahoma City National Memorial
Photograph by A.J. Belmont

Figure 7. Oklahoma City National Memorial
Photograph by A.J. Belmont


Albert J. Belmont was born in Greenwich, Connecticut. He received his bachelor's

degree in 1999 from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley College in illustration. His

professional experience includes positions at the Samuel P. Ham Museum of Art at the

University of Florida and at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in Jacksonville,


I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a thesis for the degree of Master of Arts.

yrlenn Willumson
Associate Professor of Art and Art History

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a thesis for the degree of Master of Arts.

Alexander Alberro
Assistant Professor of Art and Art History

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a thesis for the degree of Master of Arts.

Ko ry iver-Smih5r
Curator of Contemporary Art
Samuel P. Ham Museum of Art

This thesis was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the College of Fine Arts and
to the Graduate School and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
degree of Master of Arts.

August 2003 aL& ju'K-'
Dean, College of Fine Arts

Dean, Graduate School

074 FB 202
10/27/03 3476t .