Kirkland residents reject 9/11 sculpture, say it's ugly

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Art, like beauty, is said to be in the eye of the beholder. And sometimes the beholder can be downright mean.

A resident of the City of Kirkland is withdrawing her proposal to place a 9/11 monument at a city park after a flood of negative comments from the public.

Maureen Baskin, who spearheaded the plan to bring the sculpture to Kirkland, is disappointed that people don't like it.

"Reading some of their rebuttals and comments, it was so painful," said Baskin, still perplexed why so many people rejected the idea. "It hurt a lot."

Baskin got the idea to bring the sculpture to Kirkland after seeing it on a truck at a Veteran's Day event in Leavenworth.

The monument is comprised of four bronze figures: a firefighter, a flight attendant, a business woman and a member of the military. They are holding hands, facing outward, looking toward the sky. In the middle are metal and sandstone remnants of the Twin Towers and Pentagon.

"It shows this really uplifting and community and united feeling. That's what I get from it," Baskin said.

The city's arts commission and parks department approved the plan and chose Juanita Beach Park as a suitable location.

But a divided city council opted to gather public input through an unscientific online survey. Baskin said more than 600 people responded, and 80 percent of the comments were negative.

Some citizens wrote that the memorial is too painful and negative to have in a park where children and parents are gathered for fun. Others said it happened far away on the East Coast. Still others thought the sculpture was not an attractive piece of art.

The council chose not to move ahead with the plan.

"We did a survey, we got the results, the results told us what direction our citizens wanted to go," said Councilman and deputy mayor Penny Sweet. "So regardless of my own disappointment, I think the path was clear."

The monument was created by two Washington state men inspired by the events of 9/11. They formed the Spirit of America Foundation twelve years ago to begin a campaign to find a location.

It would have cost Kirkland $6,000 to buy the piece and another $8,000 to install it. The foundation has recouped most of the $35,000 it cost to make the monument through donations over the years.

Baskin's disappointment is somewhat softened knowing at least a half-dozen cities in Eastern Washington, including Wenatchee, are now expressing interest in acquiring the sculpture.

"It's going to find a great home here in Washington," she said. "I'm just sorry, really sorry it's not Kirkland."