Progress Continues on Sept. 11 Memorial Work continues on a memorial to the victims of Sept. 11 at the site where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood. But disagreement about the specifics of the memorial has created snarls and hurdles for most of the six years since the attacks in 2001.
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Progress Continues on Sept. 11 Memorial

Hear NPR's Mike Pesca

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.


And I'm Robert Smith.

Unidentified Man: Mary Katherine Boffa, Lawrence Francis Boisseau, Darren Christopher Bohan…

BRAND: Six years later, the names of the victims of September 11th again were read this morning in Manhattan. This year, for the first time since the attacks, there is a firm answer to a vexing question, what will become of the Word Trade Center site.

NPR's Mike Pesca reports.

MIKE PESCA: One Liberty Plaza, once a little brother in the shadow of the Twin Towers, was singed and wounded six years ago. But today, standing in an office on the 20th floor looking towards the Hudson River, you see the best view of the future this city has to offer.

We're in the office of Joseph Daniels, the president of the 9/11 Memorial Foundation.

Mr. JOSEPH DANIELS (World Trade Center Memorial Foundation): The heart of this site is the eight acres that is directly in front of me that is the end of that ramp that's traveling from street level down to bedrock, which is 70 feet below. And you can see actually an outline of what is the north footprint at the end…

PESCA: Footprint, as in the place where the tower once stood. First it was a tower, the fifth tallest in the world, then it was a ruin, and for six years it has been an outline.

Under the memorial plan, the footprints will become pools with waterfalls along the walls. There will be trees in a museum underground too. It will be called Reflecting Absence. Right now it is acres of dirt, men in hard hats, and excavation equipment the sound of which penetrates the window 20 stories above.

If you squint and imagine you can barely see the vision come to life. It's a long way off but the site has been through a long journey already. The memorial has been a debate as much as it has been a plan, and angered family members protesting one detail or another have become a staple of New York City media over the last few years.

Sometimes they are the nosiest fringe groups on a slow news day, but other times the disquiet jells into a movement. Take the International Freedom Center, which was included in the memorial's original proposal. Proponents defined it as a place to teach, quote, "the story of human kind's quest for freedom." But others saw it as slanted against America and unpatriotic.

Mr. TOM ROGER(ph) (Volunteer): I actually supported the idea.

PESCA: Tom Roger has witnessed most of these battles, including the one over the Freedom Center. His daughter was a flight attendant on the first plane to crash into one of the Twin Towers. Roger now serves on the memorial's board.

Mr. ROGER: Thought is wasn't such a bad idea to have people be able to get a broader education on the site, but there were clearly a number of families and others who felt that that program was not part of the 9/11 program.

PESCA: Those other families carried today. Then Governor George Pataki disowned the center and it has disappeared from the plans. The interesting thing here isn't who won or lost but how most of the families have settled their differences.

Roger says one major sticking point remains, lifting the victims' names. If you include all the firefighters together, what do you about the Canter Fitzgerald employees? If everyone has a grouping, what about people who were just visiting? Roger says you can't be both organized and random.

Mr. ROGER: If somebody loses out in any one of those proposals, you know, I don't care what people say, I mean somebody's going to get disadvantaged.

PESCA: Another constituency, which has been less than pleased with the memorial and the site's development, are the local civic groups which want to integrate the site's 16 acres into the surrounding community.

David Kallick is a fellow at the Fiscal Policy Institute. He's not thrilled with what the designers have come up with, but he can accept it.

Mr. DAVID KALLICK (Fiscal Policy Institute): You know, I think you'll see a big underground open space that to my mind is more divided from the rest of the city, more separates out the memorial from - and the memorializing from the revitalizing than I would have liked to see. But I think it will be a moving memorial and I think there's also a good deal of benefit in simply having things resolved.

PESCA: If you've ever haggled with your family members about the details of a funeral or gotten frustrated with a contractor about plans for a house, you have a small, small idea of the difficulties in planning this memorial. Millions of New Yorkers and indeed all Americans are scrutinizing the planning committee's decisions. Add to this, thousands of grieving family members who no one wants to upset but who will have to face the inevitability of hard choices.

The 9/11 memorial, if is it unveiled in two or three years as planned, will be a testament to the victims of a heinous act and also a comment on the arduous and imperfect process of blame, negotiation, compromise, more blame, and maybe forgiveness.

Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York.

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