Jonathan Andrew Bockhold, 1/23/2012
Current Occupation: Student Advisor
Former Occupation: Server/Student
Contact Information: Jonathan is an academic advisor and adjunct faculty member at a small college near Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a graduate of Xavier University and this is his second published story. He lives with his wife Kristen and their cat Mia.
The Memorial Planning Board
Dear Junior Planning Associates:
Enclosed you will find an executive summary and mission statement for the board as well as an outline of our most common practices. All of us here are glad to welcome you to our humble group.
We are party planners for the dead and grieving. We don’t organize your typical funeral or layout, no; we take care of the more media friendly spectacles that allow the individual a stage for their grief and the public a vicarious encounter with death and valor. We get to work fast because pain is only worth capitalizing on when it’s fresh in the minds of the grieving and the viewers. We try to shoot for the first anniversary of any tragic event because the first is a reopened wound that still bleeds and doesn’t crust off leaving behind pink and tender flesh. Those we save for the fifth and tenth anniversaries. Those are more stately affairs that our board plans too, but we usually are in charge of the immediate aftermath and the firsts; it’s a privilege and something our board is proud to support.
The Memorial Planning Board is a holistic event planning sub-committee of Memorial Plans International. The Board and parent company MPI are grounded in the traditions of patriotic history and US Military style presentations being for the benefit of the public who experienced firsthand that which is being remembered, and the secondary public having been alive during this time and for future generations so that they may also share in the public displays of pride and remembrance. We value and embrace the following:
- All public tragedies must be preserved
- All public tragedies must be respected through adequate planning and memorial structural integrity
- As the highest board of its kind in the land we must also foster smaller boards and lead by example as our practices will surely be handed down through official offices as well as generations
- We are here to serve others and help them to express their grief
Your basic memorial plan begins while they’re still shooting. For instance a certain shooting at an army base had not been confirmed over before we were called into action. We set up a homemade type memorial first, like we did at Ground Zero. First there were the boots and shoes. We had recent photos quickly made of those we knew were dead and for safe measure we got pictures of everyone on base that day in case we needed them quickly. The homemade look is good for right after the tragedy because it looks as if the grief stricken needed to remember to do something right then. No fanfare or intricate designs, just knee-jerk pain displayed on the nightly news. Can you remember the plywood walls with flowers, pictures and notes tacked up just a few days after the dust cleared on Manhattan? That was us. People needed a place to put that stuff. A few months later is when we set up better looking walls and a more organized display of items for the tourists to visit.
Sure we may rush a bit sometimes and people nearest to the tragedy can get upset. But in the end griping about a memorial really doesn’t make people listen or slide your protest into the b-roll on the news. We go in and we organize the grief and outrage into something memorable and photogenic. This also helps make the first anniversary quite a “referential” event that can be juxtaposed with the new memorial ensuring that we not forget then and now. We are solid in stone and copper that this tragedy will not be lost to time. It may be lost to public consciousness, but for those more intimate with the dead you can always go see the statue or plaque because it is there.
In the end we plan the guest list from the iron casting to the media coverage right down to the carefully placed and crumpled carnations that lie just to the right of center frame. Every so often gravity and decay will take its toll and we replace the dead flowers with new ones.
First, an event occurs through shear chance, therefore the antithesis of this chance should be reflected in the service provided to memorialize it. No one associated with any of our events would ever want to see something as disorganized as a pot-luck dinner. When you have a public event the food is what people remember most regardless of what is being celebrated. Therefore it must be elegant with small portions. We do not want anyone filling up on this food for two reasons: one is that they will have negative thoughts about the food as they sit uncomfortably in the seats, which in turn will create negative word of mouth.
A word on word of mouth; it may not have been of great influence some ten years ago, but today with social networking and other uncontrollable media outlets it is of utmost importance that we stem the tide of negative word of mouth on the internet.
Second to the formation of the memorial we need to remember that the dead will not mind if we move or disturb them for aesthetics. As deplorable as it may seem for the living, the dead will not mind for obvious reasons. So in essence, we always have to remember that these services etc. are for the living. They are our first priority. I would like to note as such though that some of the living may also bring about the need for necessary silencing due to their grief. They may not be able to handle such harsh conditions, schedules and plans. We then need to have contingencies in place to handle outbursts. We have on our side the efforts of tact and decorum. Most if not all people that are chosen to attend these memorials are thoroughly checked for past violence by other entities and we then can be included in the intelligence briefing to pre-identify any such potential problems. Those attending are also aware of social convention at such events as well as the presence of media coverage. We’ll talk about video content editing later as this is how the event is preserved for future viewers and is of such importance that a special section will be devoted to it.
So the living will eat and the dead will sleep. That may seem a bit rigid a phrase, but it does help to create a rhythm to which we can remember who we serve and why.
What has become tricky in planning these events over the past few years is the place and function of religion. Thus far we have been able to insert subtle references to God and religious beliefs, but it has been such a fine line we tread that we need to use more suggestion to the speakers at these memorials in order to have more mentions of these beliefs while simultaneously placing the responsibility for their inclusion on the individual speakers as well the possible reactions to them. We will not stop anyone from including such remarks about faith, but these must strictly be their own and in no way need to seem as if they are part of the plan. This will serve two masters in that we will seem to be fostering such spontaneous ejaculations of faith and spirituality at such an opportune time, but if these should cause any objections they will be the soul property of those who put them forth. Many great speeches and words of wisdom have come from this practice in the past which will serve us in the end to commemorate and memorialize the event, but if it should meet opposition then we will not be held responsible as it was not part of the overall plan.
Now depending on the constituency of those affected and those who perpetrate the cause for such a memorial we will make adjustments to popular culture references accordingly. In most cases the usual non-committal instrumentals associated with the country as a whole will suffice as music for the proceedings. Remember that we are not here to supply the typical gathering around the deceased. This is an event to commemorate a tragic event, whether it is for one or many, it is important that the event actually appear to be general enough to include all those in the audience at large as well as the immediate vicinity. The best way for this to happen is by using the fore-mentioned basics of musical patriotism; anthems, hymns, and popular music re-appropriating the same themes are a sure way to include the mourners here and at home.
On a side note, when it comes to budgeting, it is also important to note that public domain songs do not require prior copyright approval and therefore can be used with impunity and without fear of royalty seeking artists as would be the case with popular music. If royalties are assessed and due then we can offset the cost by agreement of all parties to create a commemorative edition of said song or recording. These can then be sold on the open market to recoup costs, make known the event itself and preserve said artists for future use and audience recognition at other events and memorials.
This leads me to the most widely influential piece of the entire process. The playback and viewership of these events depends solely on the content as edited and presented. We use nothing but the best equipment and technicians for this. It is important to remember that these are typically live events and we won’t get a chance for a second take. Ample coverage is the most plausible way we can catch the actions and reactions of the players. This is what remains of the event and this is what will be archived. If it is not captured on camera it did not happen. The rest is just hearsay.
So where does this leave us in terms of editing? With a gifted producer at the monitor board we can actually edit as we go. Treat these events as you would any sporting event. Leave the playback to the news outlets that cover the story. These images will undoubtedly be shown for at least two nights of coverage and at the 24 hour news scale that means many playbacks on many stations who will tend to edit down the material as the time marches on throughout the day and night. These in turn will be chosen as snippets for various online media outlets. All of these combine to create a visual history of the event which may be broadcast in its entirety at first, depending on the severity of the tragedy and public interest, and then whittled down into the most memorable moments. Our task is to present a canvas large enough for those moments to occur. We must also watch as things unfold so as to point those re-broadcasting the event to the best sets of images and sounds.
This “pointing-to” is very important in the cases of the recent outbursts at the podium of the brother of one such tragedy. I hand it to the editing group for making sure this vitriol was left out of the subsequent coverage, and I must also thank such rules which safeguard the airways from profanity. This is our work in action as we shape the content to reflect the majority tenor of the event despite such isolated incidents of irreverence. We are in the business of manufacturing memorials for public grief.
Once again I must say that this all sounds cold and heartless, but think of the benefits! We are here to help the public grieve and remember these tragedies! By grieving properly they are less likely to revisit the subject and may then not question its inception, which may bring about more suffering and uncertainty already weakened by the event. It will also help the public distance a memory to a two dimensional image that can be catalogued and subsequently idealized and by all means respected but also neutralized in terms of the emotional and hopefully historical impact. That is the key piece to all of this. Help the public forget the pain, but remember the scar.