A sculptural work evoking the bombing of Pam Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 is without doubt a powerful and deeply moving memorial. But whether it should be installed on public parkland in Montauk is a difficult question to answer.
The work, called “Dark Elegy,” is by Suse Lownenstein, whose son Alexander was among those killed in the terrorist attack. It is made up of 74 stylized nude figures of women depicted at the moment they learned of the death of loved ones. Real women recreated their physical reactions of loss for Ms. Lowenstein. Created with deep emotion over a period of time, the assemblage has been quietly on display on the East Lake Drive, Montauk, property the artist shares with her husband, Peter Lowenstein.
Seeking a new, more public home for it, the Lowensteins first approached the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission in Washington, D.C., but the work was rejected. Last week, they offered it to East Hampton Town and suggested Kirk Park, at the western entrance to Montauk, as its location. They envision the figures, which might be visible from Montauk Highway, surrounded by a 75-foot-diameter circle of dark, shredded material.
Setting aside for the moment the specific artwork, and acknowledging the reverence with which it was created, the East Hampton Town Board should consider whether the loss of Pam Am Flight 103, which took place so far away and affected people throughout the country, should be permanently memorialized here. If so, a question arises about whether Kirk Park, which is close to the humming downtown and summer night revelers, might invite vandalism and other forms of disrespect. If the Flight 103 memorial were accepted, it would be the largest here, bigger than those to East Hampton’s war dead or those killed in the 9/11 attacks. We are not sure what the right answer is, but a careful, dispassionate, and thorough process should be pursued before going further.