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Lives Defined by Work, Even in Death

There’s no more telling example of how people identify themselves–or are identified– by what they do, than in the current argument over the 9/11 memorial plans for Ground Zero. When the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation announced that victims’ names would be displayed without specifying, among other things, what company they worked for, a group of their families denounced the plan, saying that not displaying these affiliations “robs victims of the human qualities that rallied and sustained the nation” on the web site Take Back the Memorial.

The differences in their proposal, along with the foundation’s, are highlighted in this New York Times article, where the victims relatives also specify that ages, floor locations, and in the case of uniformed workers, ranks, should also be included.
Which do you think is the better proposal? Will having the 2,979 names appear unadorned better represent the great tragedy of that day, or, by including other information, better tell the story of those who died?

How do you define yourself? When you’re first introduced to someone, how early in the conversation do you ask them what they do? When does what you do come into the conversation? Most importantly, is that how you want to be remembered?

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