Claus Dicovskiy

Reminds me of That Tragedy

When we see a layer of fresh concrete poured into a section of the sidewalk, we rush to write our name or inscribe some sort of design into it, knowing that it will be permanently recorded. We relish in the thought that someone in the future, walking their dog, will stop and see our epigraph, and acknowledge our presence, even for a mere second. To want to be remembered is to be human. A democratic plaque now equates the life of a dog owner who frequented a dog park with a firefighter who gave his life during the September 11 attacks. This is not to say that one of those lives was more valuable than the other; However, it does make one question what separates the rudimentary concrete inscription from the state funded memorial.

“Reminds Me of That Tragedy” is an investigation of memorials in Bergen County, New Jersey. Writing about the state, the author John Brooks once commented on its preference for “mild nomenclature” — a claim that resonates in the region’s vernacular memorial architecture. Most of these memorials consist of a bronze plaque placed on a boulder. This standardized approach seems completely counter-intuitive to the idea of a memorial, favoring convenience over thoughtful, creative expression within public space. Passaic may not have replaced Rome as the “eternal city”, as Robert Smithson facetiously questioned, but with their abundance of memorials, New Jersey towns like Passaic are certainly trying.