A Memorial Inscription’s Grim Origins
Questions have arisen about whether a quotation from a translation of Virgil’s “Aeneid” about two warriors’ deaths is appropriate for the National September 11 Memorial Museum.
The preview text is a bit misleading as well. There are no questions. In the context of the original quote, it’s undoubtedly inappropriate.
The short version: this isn’t some ode to victims of savagery or brave soldiers heading into battle. It’s spoken to the perpetrators of a heinous crime in advance of their punishment. The context, then, isn’t that they won’t be forgotten for their sacrifices. It’s that their actions were so heinous that they will be defined by them, and their punishment will reflect that.
Sometimes, just sometimes, sentiment is enough. Other times, context matters.
It matters here because thousands of people were murdered by zealots. Zealots that were motivated a combination of historical ignorance and contemporary malice.
In that sense, there are few quotes that could be less appropriate.