Lesson Plan: Cover Stories

Memorial Plaza (Grades 68)

1. Display or distribute copies of The New Yorker cover titled Memorial Plaza.

2. Ask students to look at the cover and write down observations about the cover. If working in small groups, direct students to share responses with classmates. 

3. Lead a guided inquiry by asking the following questions:
-  Where: Where do you think this takes place? How can you tell? Tell students the location is the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.
-  Who: Who is visiting this place? What are they doing? (As students identify people, share individual narratives – i.e. tourists with shopping bags, security staff to protect the site) to showcase the diverse audience with many different reasons for visiting.
-  Why: Why do you think there are so many people? What makes you say that?
-  When: When does this cover take place? (July 7, 2014, soon after the opening of the 9/11 Memorial Museum.)

4. Recap student responses, pointing out that it shows a crowded Memorial filled with a variety of visitors engaging in different activities ranging from taking selfies and sitting on the parapets to quiet reflection and going to work.

5. Explain that even before the wreckage was cleared from the World Trade Center site, 9/11 family members, officials and New Yorkers began contemplating commemorative and commercial possibilities for the site’s redevelopment. Some wanted to rebuild the 16-acre WTC site, while others wanted the site to remain empty, and still others believed that a memorial should be created to honor the victims. Eventually there was a compromise: the buildings’ footprints were designated as sacred ground—represented by the 9/11 Memorial—and the remaining surrounding eight acres were dedicated to the rebuilding—represented by the new skyscrapers and transportation hub.

6. Share the following quote from Adrian Tomine, a cartoonist and illustrator for The New Yorker, speaking about his illustration, Memorial Plaza

“I first sketched only tourists going about their usual happy activities, with the memorial in the background. But when I got to the site, I instantly realized that there was a lot more to be captured—specifically, a much, much wider range of emotions and reactions, all unfolding in shockingly close proximity. I guess that’s the nature of any public space, but when you add in an element of such extreme grief and horror, the parameters shift.” [From The New Yorker]

7. Ask: What do you think Tomine means by the statement, “when you add an element of such extreme grief and horror, the parameters shift?”

8. Conclude by asking: Do you think it is possible for the rebuilt World Trade Center site to serve as both a public space and a place of remembrance? Should it serve both functions or should importance be placed on one aspect over the other?

Image courtesy of The New Yorker © Condé Nast

Additional resources on the 9/11 Memorial mission and design:

Public Program: The Architecture of Remembrance
- 8:12–10:40 (Michael Arad discusses the importance of public space in the days after 9/11.)
- 15:52–18:42 (Michael Arad presents his argument for the necessity of the 9/11 Memorial to be a public space.)

Lesson Plan: A Comparison of 9/11 Memorials
Lesson Plan: 9/11 Memorial Design
Resource: About the Memorial