Gesture of Respect or Unappreciated Lightning Rod for Controversy
Or both? At the tip of Bayonne, New Jersey’s man-made cruise ship terminal peninsula stands a 100-foot tall tower made of steel sheathed in bronze. Described as “hypnotic and moving” in one account, “insensitive,” “self-aggrandizing,” and “pompous” in another, the monument is officially titled “To the Struggle Against World Terrorism.”
The monument, dedicated on September 11, 2006 has also been called the “Tear of Grief” and the “Tear Drop Memorial.”
The tower is split with a jagged opening through the middle. At the top of the opening hangs a large stainless-steel teardrop in memory of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The names of those who died in the September 11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing are etched in the eleven-sided black granite base.
Between the flag and the statue is a separate memorial to thirteen residents of Bayonne who died during the attacks.
In September 2011, a four-foot section of steel from the World Trade Center was added to the memorial site—further adding to the emotional impact of the monument.
In spite of the fact that the event was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Bill Clinton and several other high ranking Federal and state officials, the dedication of the monument received little fanfare and practically no media coverage. It has remained largely undiscovered.
Described as a gift from Russian President Vladimir Putin and the People of Russia to America, the monument was conceived and designed by Moscow artist Zurab Tsereteli. He said that as he watched the collapse of the twin towers, he was moved to tears.
Although the cost of the sculpture was not disclosed, Tsereteli said he paid for the labor and materials. He also said metals for the sculpture were obtained from a military aircraft factory in the “secret city” of Dzerzhinsk.
Every-day-observers, standing at the foot of the monument, often describe the statue as “awe inspiring.” The 3,024 names of persons inscribed on the black marble testify to the enormity of this act of terrorism. Though the gleaming stainless steel teardrop does not move, the imagery of a gentle teardrop cracking what appears to be stone is clearly moving and symbolic.
From the very beginning, however, the monument has been a lightning rod for controversy.
The statue was initially offered to Jersey City, New Jersey. Residents, art groups, and civic associations jointly opposed the project. Local cultural arts groups condemned the sculpture as ”an insensitive, self-aggrandizing piece of pompousness by one of the world’s blatant self-promoters.”
The artist then searched for and selected the Harbor View Park on the tip of a man-made peninsula. The site faces the Statue of Liberty, and beyond that, the Manhattan skyline. Still, some complain that the “10-story horror” blocks their view of the New York skyline. Today, One World Trade Center is visible from the site.
Reaction to the monument has been mixed. Reportedly, it was described as one of The World’s Ugliest Statues by Foreign Policy magazine (April 18, 2010), and The New Yorker said, from far away, it looked like “a giant tea biscuit” (June 25, 2007). The art community stated that “it was not just unpleasant, but…offensive” (The Vigilant Citizen, Aug 14th, 2009) and “a cross between a scar and a woman’s private parts.”
Reactions from the general public, however, have been positive. Comments include “impressive,” “awe inspiring,” and a “breathtakingly beautiful creation.” Additionally, the perspective from the park is not lost on visitors, providing a moving view of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline.
One More Controversy
There are 3,024 names of persons killed September 11th in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania along with six others who died in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. By January, 2004, 43 of these names had been deleted from the official record because their deaths could not be conclusively established. Apparently, the artist used an outdated list, adding another layer of controversy.
Located in Harbor View Park, the monument is not easy to find. The memorial is located at the very end of Port Terminal Blvd on the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor. The best route to find the memorial is to follow signs to the “cruise ship” terminal. The statue is adjacent to the Bayonne Harbor cruise ship pier.
My Takeaway (Author’s Comments)
Criticism aside, the Tear Drop Memorial appears to be well received by the general public—that is, for those who know to look for it and can find it, it is well worth the visit. While I was there, a number of people came to the memorial. One older couple walked directly to one side of the monument and touched the base—perhaps the name of a son or daughter.
I tend to take people and events at face value, though I do love a good conspiracy. In the case of this monument, face value wins. I was moved by the perceived symbolism of the tear shed for the tear in the fabric of humanity caused by an act of terror. At the risk of being “insensitive,” I do not see the insensitivity of the monument—it serves the commendable purpose of memorializing the event and the loss of so many lives. It is located in a position that brings together the monument, our penultimate symbol of freedom—the Statue of Liberty—the site of the original World Trade Center and the new One World Trade Center. Strong, palpable emotions are captured in this setting.
As for an artist’s self-promotion—that is what artists have to do, at any level, to get their art in the public eye. As for the aesthetics, “art” is in the eye of the beholder, and as I have mentioned, for me, this unique piece of sculpture carries strong symbolism. It makes one wonder what these same critics would have said about Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi self-promotion with the Statue of Liberty and or Gutzon Borglum “defacing” the beautiful mountain setting of Mount Rushmore.
For more information online go to http://www.911monument.com/.