That’s the snarky headline over a story from a Pennsylvania newspaper regarding the controversial memorial design for Flight 93, which fell to the earth in a Pennsylvania field on 9/11.
As we have maintained, words matter. Whether the designer of the site, Paul Murdoch, unwittingly chose a crescent shape to memorialize the forty people who died at the hands of Islamic fanatics is not the issue. What matters is the effect of his choice of words for the symbolism behind his design. Peter Drucker was right: “communication is the act of the recipient.”
It speaks to the naiveté of the group — family members, “design professionals,” and people from the community — that they and Mr. Murdoch seem taken aback by the criticism of the memorial so inaptly named “The Crescent of Embrace.”
Consider this: suppose that instead of a crescent shape, the design proposal consisted of two straight roads which intersected at the point of Flight 93’s impact. Suppose further that the design had been christened (so to speak) “The Cross of Embrace”? Which critics do you think would have to be appeased for that symbolism?
Here’s a solution that will appease some and raise further objections by others: change the design so that if follows more closely the shape of an arc rather than a crescent. It would entail reducing the angle by which the arc is subtended from the center of the circle. In other words, flatten out the crescent so it looks more bow-shaped. This could still be made to follow “the curving land form” Mr. Murdoch says he was incorporating into his design.
Everything else could remain the same, except for those two changes —
1. Make the shape look more like an arc;
2. Call it “The Arc of Embrace.”
Stephen Vincent was right when he said “words matter.” In fact, either they are crucial bonds or they are dividing lines.
And if they don’t matter, well then — just put in two roads and call it “The Cross.”