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Plans for WTC Memorial Dogged by Controversy

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Plans for WTC Memorial Dogged by Controversy

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Plans for WTC Memorial Dogged by Controversy

Plans for WTC Memorial Dogged by Controversy

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5784992/6041304" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Aerial i

An aerial view of the model of the proposed memorial, as viewed from the southeast. Jock Pottle/Esto hide caption

toggle caption Jock Pottle/Esto
Aerial

An aerial view of the model of the proposed memorial, as viewed from the southeast.

Jock Pottle/Esto
Interior i

Unidentified remains at bedrock, North Tower footprint. Rendering by dbox/Courtesy World Trade Center Memorial Foundation hide caption

toggle caption Rendering by dbox/Courtesy World Trade Center Memorial Foundation
Interior

Unidentified remains at bedrock, North Tower footprint.

Rendering by dbox/Courtesy World Trade Center Memorial Foundation

Almost immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, makeshift memorials began to appear not only in New York City but around the country. Five years later, no official memorial has been erected at ground zero, where the World Trade Center was destroyed. On any given day, the gray pit is visited by thousands of tourists from all over the world.

A design by Michael Arad and Peter Walker was chosen almost two years ago, meant to take up six of the 16 acres at ground zero. But there have been constant struggles over many of the aspects of the project, such as how to list names of those who died. Edie Lutnick, who lost her brother in the attacks and runs the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, is one of many with an opinion.

"Cantor Fitzgerald was above where the planes hit. As a result, we lost 658 people, and all of those people died together. To list the names randomly is to deny these families the ability to have their loved ones listed with their colleagues," Lutnick says.

Deborah Burlingame, whose husband was a pilot on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, is on the board of World Trade Center Memorial Foundation. She notes that part of what makes the site so difficult is that, for many, ground zero is a graveyard.

Burlingame says that being able to get some of her brother's remains back for burial was crucial to her. "It meant all the difference in the world to us, and so my heart breaks for these families."

The final resolution many of the issues rests with New York Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a potential complicating factor. Politicians often have their own agenda when making decisions about memorials, according to Edward Linenthal, a professor of American history at Indiana University.

Linenthal, who has written about the building of a memorial for the victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, says the director of the city's taskforce pushed to keep politicians out.

"Robert Johnson had politicians sign a document that they were going to stay out of the process," Linenthal says. "I think it was a very, very wise, smart thing to do. You know, memorials are difficult enough without politicians wanting to hang them on their trophy case for election time."

Dr. Grady Bray, a psychologist who specializes in disasters, notes that it's not only politics at play, but also New York's significance.

"This is the financial nerve center of our nation. There are financial pressures that are brought to bear here that are far beyond those that would have been experienced in Oklahoma City itself," Bray says. "The politics are so much different."

So far, disputes about the World Trade Center memorial range from costs to security to what kind of museum the spot should host.

While the memorial is scheduled to open in the fall of 2009, ongoing struggles over its design seem likely.

Still, there is a strong feeling that the memorial, called Reflecting Absence, will provide a place for healing. At its core are two pools of water with waterfalls running down the sides. The pools are in the exact spot of the footprints of the Twin Towers.

That void where the towers once stood is meant to be a place that visitors can fill with their thoughts, and reflect on what America lost that day.

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