Musings on the Coast


Who Keeps Defiling Sacred Ground?

By Michael Ray
By Michael Ray

In 2011, Laguna Beach dedicated a 9/11 memorial designed by Laguna’s own Jorg Dubin. The location was near the American flag stand in Heisler Park and more than 2,000 people attended the dedication.

Members of the New York City Fire Department were there in full uniform standing at attention. They were joined by others from various nationwide rescue agencies. So were members of our fire department and police and many, many other officials, all in full dress uniform, all saluting, all humbled before the art work and what it represented.

The piece is composed of two elements: first, two girders from the Twin Towers, still partially encased in concrete, leaning against one another as though that would protect them; and a stainless steel globe 30 inches in diameter. If you get close enough to the reflecting globe, which requires leaning down under the girders, you can see yourself.

You can imagine yourself in that horrible place at that horrible time, the impact of the passenger jets, the explosions, the fires, the rising smoke, the people in excruciating pain jumping from 90 stories, the two towers collapsing, the victims not just killed but pulverized, the hapless firemen who had tried to help, equally obliterated.

You can see yourself in the mirrored ball, the girders above, your terror rising into panic as though you were there too.

The piece is mesmerizing, a masterwork, by far the best public artwork Laguna Beach ever has produced.

But something sinister seems to be happening. The mirrored stainless steel globe repeatedly has been attacked in what appears an escalating pattern. First, random scratches appeared, maybe from sharp rocks or screwdrivers or car keys. Eventually, enough appeared that Dubin was called to repair them, which is a long and arduous process. The scratches must be filled, then polished to the perfection of the rest of the globe, and then returned to its base at the bottom, a two-inch thick slab of hardened steel which itself is attached to the concrete base.   The process is time-consuming and delicate.

About a year ago, someone attacked the globe with heavier objects, indenting it. Then more appeared. Then last month, the globe was assaulted by an object intently dangerous like a big wrench, sledge hammer or heavy-wood 4X4. The attack was not random. Someone or some people had planned it. They had to find a heavy weapon, wait until late at night when no one was at the park, then pound at the globe with great force.

The force of the blows was so great it cracked the steel base of the globe in half. Let me restate that: in half. Let me repeat about the base: it is a two-inch thick slab of heavy-gauge steel. Only great and determined force could crack it.

The artist is repairing the globe once again, and now he — and we — must wonder, who would desire such violence against a mirrored memorial globe?

Theories include drunk 20-somethings who do not even remember 9/11, half-baked jihadists out to make a statement, some schizoid homeless person on a rampage, a drunk with a chip on his shoulder, a hopped-up Muslim hater (think of the Republican primary contestants and their anti-Muslim rants) out to create a Muslim backlash in Laguna.

It could be almost anyone. The city obviously now must guard against further attacks by installing cameras. What a hassle. What a pain. Why?

Whoever you are, whatever your motivation, please stop. Our 9/11 memorial is a sacred place. The real bodies became dust and no real remains could be buried. Our 9/11 memorial is a cemetery of memories.   It is there so we too, so far from New York, can fathom the sheer panic and grasp, at least partially, the unspeakable. And in that grasping, honor those so wasted and so worthy of our honor.

Whoever you are, just stop. Please. I ask you, please. Stop.

Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and now lives in Laguna Beach.  He makes a living as a real estate entrepreneur and is involved in many non-profits.


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  1. Mr Ray thank you for this article,
    one other possibility exsist that maybe quite sensitive.
    The relationship of healing the loss of loved one is so complicated.
    It could be someone is upset with the memories the memorial evokes and are having to pervade through the loss all over again.
    Considering Jorge Dubins talent in his conception of this work may need to be sold (displayed) with a warning label or some sort of information to those still greving from the event.

  2. Mike, I am with you on this. I own time shares right above Heisler Park and see the memorial whenever I am staying there. It is very sobering. I would stand guard on my own time to keep it from happening again. But, Mike, you didn’t have to include Republicans in the mix of the perpetrators. It’s well documented that leftists are the usual proponents of this kind of damage, not conservatives.


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