04 May 2014

Controversy about the 9/11 Memorial Museum inscription

First, this note from the Oxford University Press blog:
The National September 11 Memorial Museum will be opened in a few weeks. On the otherwise starkly bare wall at the entrance is a 60-foot-long inscription in 15-inch letters made from steel salvaged from the twin towers: NO DAY SHALL ERASE YOU FROM THE MEMORY OF TIME. This noble sentiment is a quotation from Virgil’s Aeneid, one of mankind’s highest literary achievements, but its appropriateness has been questioned. In the context of the Aeneid, Virgil is commemorating a homosexual pair of warriors killed while making a bloody surprise attack on their sleeping enemies’ camp.
And these additional details and commentary from a 2011 op-ed piece in the New York Times:
Anyone troubling to take even a cursory glance at the quotation’s context will find the choice offers neither instruction nor solace... Falling on the sleeping enemy, the two hack away with their swords, until the ground reeks with “warm black gore.” Stripping the murdered soldiers of their armor, the two are in turn ambushed by a returning Rutulian cavalry troop. As each Trojan tries to save his companion, both are killed, brutally and graphically... At dawn’s light, the severed heads of the two Trojans are paraded by the enemy on spears.

The central sentiment that the young men were fortunate to die together could, perhaps, at one time have been defended as a suitable commemoration of military dead who fell with their companions. To apply the same sentiment to civilians killed indiscriminately in an act of terrorism, however, is grotesque


  1. Given the context, it has a lot more in common with the actions of the terrorists. They really didn't think this through, did they?

  2. Perhaps the individual who proposed the quote is now snickering up [his] sleeve...

  3. It seems to refer to 2, as in the twin towers, not people that were killed there. "pair of warriors killed while making a bloody surprise attack". I agree that I still don't like the choice, but I guess the choice was about the towers, not the people.

  4. Sigh....this is why not everything should be decided on the basis of a Google search. Please consult your librarian before carving anything in steel.


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