Amid the challenges faced by many bereaved family and friends after 9/11, was the absence of physical remains to bury, depriving them of this traditional ritual of closure. As a result, relatives were motivated to honor their loved ones through other improvised rituals. Renaming public streets in memory of 9/11 victims emerged as one way to pay homage.
Memorial street renamings draw from a storied practice of renaming streets after local and national heroes and celebrities. The practice inserts an oblique history of 9/11 into the geography of contemporary life by embedding the memories of civilians and first responders into the fabric of the communities they have touched. The diversity and character of those particular places may have shaped an individual just as he or she may have shaped that place they lived. Examples of street renamings in remembrance of people killed on 9/11 are realized in the signs that were produced with duplicates often presented to family and friends advocating for these tributes.
Some are now in the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s permanent collection, including the stories of Karen Sue Juday and Thomas J. Ashton. Juday moved to Brooklyn from Indiana to enjoy a new life with her fiancé, Richard Pecorella. Soon thereafter, she landed a job as an administrative assistant at Cantor Fitzgerald where she worked on the 101st floor of the North Tower. After her death on 9/11, Pecorella campaigned to have the corner of 64th Street and 20th Avenue in Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn – the block where the couple lived for four years - named in her honor. It is now and forever known as Karen S. Juday Place.
In Woodside, Queens, Thomas J. Ashton Way is located at the intersection of 47th Avenue and 60th Street in the neighborhood where the 21 year-old apprentice electrician grew up. On Sept. 10, 2001, Ashton had accepted an assignment on the 95th floor of the North Tower at the firm of Marsh & McLennan. His family takes comfort whenever they step outside their home and see the street sign commemorating him.
By Alexandra Drakakis, Assistant Curator of Collections for the 9/11 Memorial Museum