The Long View 2002-01-22 Heroes & Nitwits

It was 9-11 that initially brought me to John's site. As I've said, John was one of the most reasonable people I ever knew, and his home in New Jersey was right across the Hudson from the WTC. John was a voice of sanity in those times.

Heroes & Nitwits

The firemen's memorial for the World Trade Center has kicked up a fuss. The statuary group was supposed to depict three firemen raising an American flag over the disaster site soon after the catastrophe of 911. The incident actually happened: a now-famous photograph recorded it. The problem was that the sculptors decided to improve on history by making the firemen ethnically diverse: black, white and Hispanic, respectively. The actual firemen were all white. The monument has caused quite a bit of embarrassment, not least to the firemen in the New York City Fire Department who belong to minority groups. They had not asked for any such thing.

As a fireman's son, I can't say that I am outraged, but I am a little exasperated. I see too much of this kind of thing. Not far from me (I live in downtown Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan) there is a half-body statue one George P. McCulloh, the businessman who organized the building of the Morris Canal in 1822. This canal connected the Hudson with the Delaware River until 1924. The statue stands on what had been the canal's eastern end, which now is just a malodorous inlet in the riverbank. It's reasonable to a put up a little statue to commemorate local history like this. The bizarre thing is that someone decided the monument needed a racial-minority element, so George P. McCulloh has a tiny, bronze family of fleeing slaves in his lap. The idea is that the Morris Canal was an important link in the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. If it was, maybe the fact should have gotten its own statue.

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