After Suse Lowenstein‘s 21-year-old son was murdered by Libyans while flying in a plane over Scotland, she got to work on a sculpture. She wanted to depict the moment of utter anguish when you hear your loved one has been taken down by terrorists. The result—Dark Elegy—is a sculpture that has expanded over the years to include 76 figures in that moment, modeled after actual people, and stripped of race, class, religion, even clothes, because, as Lowenstein sees it: “None of that matters, we are all brought to the same level….It has nothing to do with nude women or naked ladies.”
The advisory commission on memorials, however, decided D.C. wasn’t quite ready for the larger-than-real sculptures “because some of the poses of the various figures create an opportunity for irreverent behavior by visitors,” which is what John G. Parsons, associate regional director for the National Park Services wrote to the Lowensteins—Suse and her husband, Peter—prior to the unanimous decision of the eight-member commission last week.
So now what?
In a phone call from her home in Montauk, N.Y., Suse Lowenstein says she has not given up on finding a home for Dark Elegy in the nation’s capital. “The vote [of the commission] is not binding. It does make pushing ahead a little more difficult.”
And she has had enough of inuendo and outright direction that her memorial to terrorism is “too powerful. They want something more benign to represent the victims of terrorism. I can only shake my head,” she says. “There is nothing benign about becoming a victim of terrorism. It’s ugly, painful, and it is harsh.”
Her representative in Congress, Timothy Bishop, floated a bill to put Dark Elegy on District parkland. According to the Post, it’s been referred to subcommittee. Lowenstein says she and Bishop have enlisted the help of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) to give the bill additional gravitas.
Lowenstein says she’ll wait until a final decision comes down before figuring out a Plan B for where to donate the piece. She has said she’s using funds received from a settlement with the Libyan government to create it and to eventually cast all 76 figures in bronze. For now, it remains in her garden in Montauk, the last town on Long Island, where it’s open to the public. And the public has come.
“[But] we want it to be somewhere where all people, from all walks of life, can go to and reflect. Terrorism is part of our past and part of our future. This concerns absolutely everyone,” she says, “and we want it to be seen.”