A Memorial that Works

The Dream House Project: Others R Us

By Annette Swierzbinski maskmaker1@hotmail.com

March 12, 2002

I would like to propose a memorial be created at the site of the former World Trade Center that looks towards the future as the best way of honoring those who died in the past. Memorials are most often about death but we have the opportunity to create one that works for a better life for all the peoples of the world and especially our children.

Had I been one of the victims who perished in the horror of the 9-11 World Trade Center attacks, I would want as my legacy to know that such a thing never happened again to anyone. I propose creation of a series of projects for schools and intergenerational communities globally that work towards promoting tolerance and understanding as the foundation for a culture of peace. Whatever structure is ultimately built on the site, it must house a permanent center dedicated to the presentation of these projects, an integral component of which will be an interactive program of creative and community-building activities. It should be a space filled with life and engagement that seeks to transform the "us versus them" equation into just "us" by putting a real face on those we now mistrust or just don’t know.

Projects would be ongoing, building on one another and expanding nationwide and worldwide in scope and depth of understanding. Communities can be linked via the Internet so that children, for example, in Egypt can participate in a project in conjunction with children in Idaho. After communities engage in creative processes to explore cultural differences, conflicting ideas, misconceptions and prejudices, the outcome of these explorations would be manifest in a combination of art, music, dance, theater, writing, video and/or new media. Creative expression is a very non-threatening and inviting way to confront difficult issues and provides an experiential mode of understanding that transcends words and language differences. It also provides an opportunity to have fun together--an important tool in forming bonds.

Creating a venue where people from all over the world can come face to face with their global neighbors and learn, through this ongoing sequence of projects, that we are not so very different from one another can transform the senseless tragedy of the September 11th attacks into an opportunity to shape our future in a different way. Monuments to senseless tragedies do not endure; witness the fate of the memorial to the victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. It was destroyed on 9-11. Only a piece of marble remains.

Borrowing from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, our foremost hope of ensuring that our dead have not died in vain lies in taking on the great task of furthering our ideals and seeing that there is a new birth of peace, understanding and freedom worldwide so that innocent people "shall not perish from this earth". We can best do this by educating our children and ourselves to know the road to peaceful resolution of conflict and to understand that it is always the best road to take. And this road should lead us to the World Trade Center site where there will always be a space that is a creative forum for world peace. I believe the victims of 9-11 would enjoy hearing the voices of children and adults from all over the world laughing and chattering as they work creatively to achieve mutual understanding.