The wrong way to honour the heroes of Flight 93

September 15th, 2005
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Flight 93 was the aircraft hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001, in which some passengers cast off the passivity demanded by aviation authorities, banded together and attacked their hijackers. Their bravery, immortalized in the last known words of passenger Todd Beamer — “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll!” recorded over an open cellphone line — saved many innocent lives.

Assembling a fitting memorial to such a morally unambiguous event would seem straightforward. Indeed, The Flight that Fought Back, which aired on The Discovery Channel Sunday night — 9/11′s fourth anniversary — paid fitting cinematic tribute to the four known heroes and the 36 other innocent passengers murdered by Islamist terrorists. But as with the main 9/11 memorial, now awaiting construction in New York, those with a more “nuanced” view of America, the war against Islamic radicalism and Western culture seem to have other plans for the Flight 93 memorial.

The largest feature of the winning design is “an allee of red maple trees” set in the Pennsylvania landscape near the crash site. The “allee” will be arranged in a crescent.

The victims of Flight 93 will thereby be memorialized with a red crescent. When combined with a star, that’s the principal symbol of Islam.

Named “The Crescent of Embrace,” the huge memorial even includes an extra grove of red maples where the Islamic star would go. Several conservative Webloggers have calculated that the crescent’s opening points toward Mecca, site of Islam’s holiest shrine.

Unveiled last week, The Crescent of Embrace came under immediate criticism. Just as in the hue and cry over the main 9/11 memorial, the Crescent’s design firm, a trendy shop with an environmentalist stance, has responded with evasion and euphemism. It claims the shape and name are not intended to evoke any religion “per se.” Then again, the lead architect didn’t arrange his “allee” in a Cross of Courage, Bar of Bravery or six-pointed Star of Sacrifice. And he rejected the design jury’s urging for a less incendiary name, The Arc of Embrace.

Some will say the Flight 93 memorial is “only” a symbol. But symbols matter a great deal to Islamist radicals — who call Westerners “Crusaders.” Instead of lifting our eyes and souls heavenward to recall transcendent actions, The Crescent of Embrace implicitly prostrates visitors towards the faith claimed by the murderers. If this design stands, the confusion and self-doubt it reveals won’t be lost on the terrorists.

National Post

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