Most of America managed to ignore the Flight 93 National Memorial during the year-long process of competition, public review and comment period, and the final jury announcement, except for the occasional news brief buried on an inside page. But now that a local wingnut has decided that a curved line of maple trees transforms the long-considered winning design into some sort of tribute to the terrorists, the Associated Press jumped on the story and the blogosphere is afire.
The problem is that the Los Angeles-based architecture team called its entry "Crescent of Embrace," referring to a curved line of trees planted to follow the bowl-shaped terrain. The intended symbolism, one of the architects told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is that the of a circle broken by the crash of Flight 93. Not so, says a self-proclaimed Anabaptist bishop, best known hereabouts as an anti-gay activist but who also "has been arrested for disorderly conduct in several states while preaching or protesting Catholics and anyone else deemed sinners in his theology," according to a Pittsburgh City Paper profile. Ron McRae insists that any "crescent" is a symbol of Islam, and the entire design should be scrapped.
Let's note that the folks who overwhelmingly chose this design are not a bunch of arts-business elitist pinheads, but include Flight 93 family members and Somerset County citizens. They did indeed recommend changing the name, e.g. to an arc or a circle. The designers have no problem with that, saying that "crescent" is simply a generic architectural term, and that this isn't a lunar (i.e. tapered) crescent like the one featured with a star on some Arab country flags. The Flight 93 family members have no problem with the shape of the tree planting. But the "controversy" rages on.
The aforementioned P-G story has probably the best report, but I do like Atrios' pointing out that both the state flag of South Carolina and the logo of the Christian Coalition also feature crescents. The latter is even red, like the Memorial's, and includes a star, just like the flags of Pakistan and Azerbaijan. Hmmm.
The P-G's last word goes to juror Tom Sokolowski, the always-quotable director of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
If the families of the 40 people who were killed felt this was an appropriate symbol to honor their loved ones, then I think [McRae] is delusional.... To take this small-minded, bigoted view is disgusting and repellent.