Rebuilding Roundup Archive: September 2004
Rebuilding Roundup for September 10
The city is working around the clock to prepare for the third 9/11 anniversary ceremony at Ground Zero, after heavy rains flooded some parts of the site. Puddles as deep as two feet gathered at the site's lowest spots on Wednesday, and the city brought in seven extra water pumps to make sure the ground is dry by tomorrow. Parents and grandparents of 9/11 victims will lead a modest ceremony at Ground Zero, as other observances take place throughout the city. The weather is expected to be mostly sunny and mild.
Almost all of the $3 billion raised to provide aid to 9/11 victims has been spent. Most aid money was given in cash and distributed with little regard to need; less than 30 percent was set aside for care for long-term problems like mental health counseling. Nor do any of the six health screening programs to monitor 9/11-related health problems have funding to go past 2009, leaving open the chance that these programs will not detect serious, long-term health effects of the attacks. There is no accepted estimate of the number of people who continue to suffer from 9/11-related ailments, but thousands have reported sicknesses. The most commonly diagnosed ailments are lung damage and post-traumatic stress disorder; there is currently no federal treatment program for those suffering from exposure to dust from teh collapsing Twin Towers.
Congress reconvened this week, saying that addressing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations was a top priority. A bipartisan bill was introduced which would adopt all the recommendations of the panel. President George Bush abandoned his previous reluctance to a strong national intelligence director, the commission's main proposal, and now says he supports giving the post wide authority over the $40 billion federal intelligence budget. Both members of the panel and families of 9/11 victims have said they will push to make the adoption of recommendations a campaign-year issue.
An online "Living Memorial" to 9/11 victims was launched this week. The site gives victims' families a place to document the lives of their loved ones, and is intended to become an information resource for 9/11 information.
The Republican Party -- which many believe came to New York primarily to re-identify George Bush with 9/11 – used the emotional power of the attack to drive its convention. Speeches, testimonials from families of 9/11 victims, and even a video showing Bush at Ground Zero were used to depict a Republican administration that had responded strongly to the attack. Of all speakers, former Major Rudolph Giuliani spoke most extensively about 9/11, giving a speech that alternated between spontaneous recollections from the days after the attack and harsh criticism of John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate. Many New Yorkers have expressed their anger at what they see as the exploitation of 9/11 for political gain.
Rumors that President Bush would visit Ground Zero sparked enough outrage that the official convention events steered clear of downtown. Protesters were not given permits to demonstrate at the site, though a group of people attempting to march from Ground Zero to Madison Square Garden was arrested on Tuesday. But many delegates traveled to the site on their own; newspapers reported emotional -- and occasionally contentious -- visits.
About one-third of the money for a grant program intended to aid small businesses in lower Manhattan is going unused. The Small Firm Retention and Attraction Grant Program originally intended to give out $155 million to encourage businesses to stay in lower Manhattan; so far it has awarded or pledged $103 million to 1,600 businesses. Critics of the program say that there are barriers that make it hard for many businesses to take advantage of the grants; state officials expect a surge of applications as the December 31 deadline approaches.