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Dark Tourism Has Its Fans

• September 13, 2012 • 1:20 PM

Just two days after the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks themselves, writer Michael Luongo’s piece, “Ground Zero as Dark Tourist Site,” was honored with a gold medal in the Cultural Tourism category as part of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition sponsored by the Society of American Travel Writers.

Said the judges:

On the edge of darkness is where Luongo masterfully informs us of what is rising from the ashes of our memories. He takes us to the Tribute WTC Visitor Center and offers glimpses into the National September 11 Memorial and Museum scheduled to open in 2012. How the towers fell on 9/11 and what happened to the people who perished that day is a story that will be recounted time and time again. Balancing a fine line, Luongo tells the story word by word of ground zero tourism with reverence on the way to earning the gold.

The article looked at the still unfinished memorial and museum and how visitors would experience an attraction that was both touristy and solemn. As Luongo wrote:

To visit New York’s ground zero is clearly a different experience from Times Square or Central Park. It is what is called “thanatourism,” or “death” or “dark” tourism — the visiting of sites associated with death. It’s a relatively new field of tourism research, but the idea has long been with us. Perhaps the most famous dark tourism site is Poland’s Auschwitz, where the Nazis murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews and others. In the United States, they include now deceptively tranquil battlefields, such as Gettysburg, or the wave-lapped U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.

Of course, the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids are also associated with death, even if now it’s hard to keep that connection front and center.

This is actually the second award for Luongo’s article. He earlier received
a silver from the North American Travel Journalists Association in the area of historical or hobby travel.

Michael Todd
Most of Michael Todd's career has been spent in newspaper journalism, ranging from papers in the Marshall Islands to tiny California farming communities. Before joining the publishing arm of the Miller-McCune Center, he was managing editor of the national magazine Hispanic Business.

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