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Issue of the Week
 
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THE MEMORIAL - TEMPORARY AND PERMANENT

Two temporary memorials opening March 11 mark the first steps in the most sensitive part of the rebuilding process: designing and building a memorial to those who died in the terrorist attack on New York.

At dusk on March 11 the "Tribute of Light," will be illuminated. The two square beams of light will pierce the sky from sunset to 11 p.m. until April 13 and will be visible within a 20-mile radius.

The other memorial, "The Sphere," at Battery Park features a bronze sculpture by Fritz Koenig that once stood on the World Trade Center plaza. The sculpture was recovered from the debris and placed in a hangar at Kennedy airport. Now, framed by trees and benches, it will serve as a temporary memorial until a more permanent one can be designed and built.

Creating a permanent memorial is likely to take a long time. Some families of victims believe the entire World Trade Center site should be a memorial and fear this idea could be stampeded in the rush to build something downtown. Other groups such as the Civic Alliance "believe that the best monument honoring those who died at the trade center would be the reconstruction of the area as a beautiful and livable new district of the city and a revitalized center of the regional economy." In the end, many think the memorial may well be limited to the exact spot where the towers once stood, the so-called "footprints" of the buildings, which cover less than half the site.

Then there is the issue of who should make a decision on the memorial. Mayor Bloomberg, Lower Manhattan Development Committee chair John Whitehead and Governor Pataki have all said the families need to have a major voice. Whitehead and Bloomberg have endorsed holding a design competition, as was done in Oklahoma City after the bombing of the federal building there.

"We can't just go on as we are, saying people should put out whatever designs they want and hopefully one of them will resonate with someone," said Fredric Bell, of New York New Visions, a coalition of architecture, planning and design groups. "Some formalized process needs to be put together, and it should happen immediately." A committee to oversee the memorial will not be designated until later this year.

There is no shortage of ideas. Some 35 design proposals have been displayed at the Max Protetch Gallery in Manhattan. One by the late Samuel Mockbee, an architect, envisions two towers spiraling down to a deep pit with a reflecting pool and museum at the bottom. Other people have proposed a field of tulips or a memorial quilt. A number of designers think a park would be most appropriate. One, the New York design firm SITE, suggests that a forest of evergreens -- one for each uniformed rescue worker who died -- be planted where the towers once stood. Several Wall Street companies look favorably on a 20-foot bronze sculpture by J. Seward Johnson depicting rescue workers climbing a staircase as civilians descend. Another proposal calls for two piers, each the length of the twin towers, extending into the Hudson near where the Trade Center once stood.

At this stage no one can predict which, if any, of these ideas might eventually mark the tragedy of September 11. After all, when a competition was held to select a memorial for the Vietnam War, could anyone have guessed in advance that it would be won by a 21-year-old architecture student who designed a black wall engraved with the names of the dead?

Next Page | WHO IS IN CHARGE OF REBUILDING?
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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation, the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation’s public education programs.  Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.