First it was Michelle Malkin, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, Scott Johnson of PowerLine and other leading lights of the right blogosphere who started seeing things we didn't in the design for the Flight 93 Memorial. We took a deep breath, blogged forward against the tide and got a nod -- and a few nice links -- from Michelle and Scott. But now the earth is falling away beneath our feet. Mark Steyn himself (left, C-Span archives) has partaken of the Kool Aid being served up by "self-proclaimed bishop Ron McRae (right), a street evangelist based in Shanksville's Somerset County," and other seers who have vowed to fight the "Crescent of Embrace" to the death, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This evening the WaPo is reporting that Rep. Tom Tancredo (R. CO) has jumped into the fray.
"That’s all that’s needed in that field: the kind of simple dignified memorial you see on small-town commons saluting Civil war veterans, a granite block with the names of the passengers and the words 'LET’S ROLL,'” writes an outraged Mark Steyn [via Brainster!], throwing in his lot with the multitudes of bloggers and their minions who are seeing red over the jury's selection of "Crescent of Embrace" for the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, as blogged here early and often:
After all, what better way to demonstrate your willingness to “embrace” your enemies than by erecting a giant Islamic crescent at the site of the day’s most unambiguous episode of American heroism?
The “crescent of embrace,” in its desperation to see no enemies and stand for nothing, represents the precise opposite of Beamer, Glick, Burnett and co: Are you ready, guys? Let’s roll over.
Whoa, big fella. Rousing, muscular prose as always, and we couldn't agree more about the idiocy of the name, but we're sorry to see that the otherwise totally awesome Mr. Steyn doesn't seem to have a clue when it comes to placemaking.
USCG aerial photo of the crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania (black vertical slit just to left of center near bottom of image marks the spot of impact). The site designated for the Flight 93 Memorial is at a very large scale, 2,200 acres. "It had been forested, it had been farmed, it had been mined and now it had taken this violent impact on 9/11. And it had been able to absorb all of this and still had its own tranquil power. And that's the level that we wanted to operate on," says architect Paul Murdoch.
Mark Steyn's commemorative block set on an acre or two of greensward surrounded by a cluster of iconic buildings does not translate well to an immense, windswept field of 2,200 acres surrounded at vast distances by forested hills. The large scale demands large landscape gestures. Principal architect Paul Murdoch explains in an interview with architecture critic Patricia Lowrey in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
The very first sketches that we did were dealing with land forms. It was apparent right away that at the scale of this site, we weren't going to create a monument, a built object that would be able to make a heroic statement. And we wanted to make a heroic statement. We were going to have to use the land to do that. The land was somehow the key to creating a memorial here.
We can't help but wish that Mark Steyn et al had had a chance to read the following Q & A with the architect before closing up shop and going for the jugular:
Q. When did you first learn of concerns that some people were interpreting the open circle of red maple trees with the red crescent associated with Islam?
A. I believe it was mentioned in the second stage jury report.
Q. Did it occur to you in the initial design phase that this might be an issue?
A. No, this is not in any way a derivation of what we came up with. I think it's an unfortunate misinterpretation of what we've generated, which we feel is very unique. The generation of this form came from the place and the intention of this memorial.
We've received a lot of angry mail in response to our contrarian position on this raging controversy and were touched by the sentiments of one of our visitors, jegoing, who observed rather quizzically "I thought this site was slanted toward the conservative side?" Yes, but it's not an echo chamber.