Funny Thing ... E-mail campaigns

The e-mailed message contained some interesting information and a bit of urgency.

"I received the attached PowerPoint show from a friend in Europe this morning. I’m absolutely amazed that the press never picked up on it. I just “Googled” Harbor View Park in Bayonne, NJ and was astounded at the number of references to this amazing memorial that nobody seems to know about. One of them said that Pres. Bush declined to attend the inauguration of the memorial, but Pres. Clinton was there. This is truly a fascinating story, and one that deserves to be told!"

The PowerPoint display described the “teardrop memorial” donated by Russia to the United States as a monument to the men and women lost on Sept. 11, 2001. It was designed by an artist named Zurab Tsereteli and sits near the shore of  Bayonne’s Harbor View Park, across the Hudson River from Manhattan.

Officially called “To the Struggle Against World Terrorism,” the 100-foot-high structure evokes the former Twin Towers. A crack runs through the edifice, with the space filled by a large teardrop. The monument was dedicated on the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks. Among those in attendance were former President Bill Clinton and Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff.

Did the media really ignore this story? The monument seemed to ring a small bell of familiarity, but, I had to admit, confronted with solely a photo of it, I wouldn’t have been able to place what or where it was.

I called the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority, which owns Harbor View Park. I was not the first.

Receptionist Beth Polera said the phone had been ringing steadily for days, apparently in response to the e-mail campaign. She had no idea what may have triggered the sudden — albeit misplaced — concern.

Did the unveiling ceremony get much coverage?

“It was covered to death,” she said.

A quick online news search of the words “Bayonne, monument” seems to bear her out. A Google timeline of stories with those words over the past decade shows the number peaking in 2006. A search of 2006 stories shows the number peaking in September.

So if the story wasn’t ignored, what accounts for the level of collective amnesia necessary to sustain the e-mail campaign?

My guess is the ceremony simply got lost in the news cycle.

The fifth anniversary of the worst terrorist attacks on American soil was replete with commemorations. One reason President Bush wasn’t in Bayonne, N.J., for example, was likely that he took part the day before in a somber ceremony in nearby Manhattan, laying a wreath at a reflecting pool at the footprint of the south tower of the World Trade Center.

There were other events competing for the media’s attention: A Freedom Walk was held at the Pentagon. Moments of silence were observed in the airports from which the hijacked planes took off. Ceremonies were held across the country, not only at sites directly related to the attacks, but in places like Camp Blanding, Fla., and Muncie, Ind.

The Daily Messenger of Sept. 11, 2006, with its front page bordered in black, was filled with local stories about the unfortunate anniversary. (I didn’t save the next day’s issue, so I can’t tell you how or if we ran coverage of the teardrop memorial.)

In short, a monument that stands out vividly when seen in an e-mail photo on just another day was simply one of dozens of powerful images on Sept. 11, 2006.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere about timing. And imagery. And e-mail campaigns.

Contact Messenger managing editor Kevin Frisch at (585) 394-0770, ext. 257 or by e-mail at kfrisch@messengerpostmedia.com.