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The 9/11 Memorial Belongs to All of America: It Should Not Be Compromised Behind Closed Doors

By Anthony Gardner

The future memorial at the World Trade Center site belongs to all of America and must be treated with the same historical reverence as comparable sites in American history such as Shanksville Pennsylvania, Pearl Harbor, Gettysburg, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Transportation infrastructure and commercial development do not have a place in the sacred space within the bathtub area of the World Trade Center site where most of the remains of those murdered on September 11 were found.

The Coalition of 9-11 Families, where I am a board member, the Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown New York and many other civic groups are concerned that "America's Memorial" at the World Trade Center site is being considerably modified beyond recognition behind closed doors. The memorial has been and continues to be compromised by political and economic agendas. The results will be detrimental to our country's legacy.

An early compromise happened when Daniel Libeskind's design for the World Trade Center site was modified. Libeskind's original design went down six stories below street level, preserving the bedrock of the bathtub area of the World Trade Center site and designating the space for a memorial. In December 2002, the architect described his motivation for preserving this area in the following statement: "We have to be able to enter this hallowed, sacred ground, while creating a quiet, meditative and spiritual place. We need to journey down, some 70 feet into Ground Zero, onto the bedrock foundation, a procession with deliberation into the deep indelible footprints of Tower One and Two."

As the development corporation sought public input on the nine different designs for ground zero, Libeskind's design emerged as the plan the public wanted to see realized. But when the chosen design was revealed at a press conference in February 2003, it had changed considerably. The new plan only went three stories below street level. During the press conference no information was given on what would comprise the three additional stories, and no word was given on what would grace the sacred bedrock of the bathtub area.

Due to the advisory capacity in which we, the leaders of the Coalition of 9-11 Families serve, the Port Authority and Lower Manhattan Development Corporation privately informed us that they were considering plans to build a bus garage, transportation infrastructure, and perhaps even retail within this area of the site.

The efforts of the Coalition of 9-11 Families to clarify our position and to reveal the truth about the direction of the redevelopment process have been stymied. The Coalition of 9-11 Families is the largest September 11 advocacy entity. Comprised of major September 11 family organizations, we represent the memorial position of thousands of family members, survivors, rescue workers and concerned Americans. Our leadership has personally communicated our position to Governor Pataki and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. It is time to publicly set the record straight.

Our united vision is to:

Preserve from bedrock to infinity the sacred ground within the area surrounded by the "slurry wall." This area contains the bedrock footprints of the North and South Towers, the Marriott Hotel and World Trade Center 6. We define this area as sacred ground because this is the area of the site where the largest concentration of remains (nearly 20,000) of those murdered on September 11 were recovered.

We are opposed to any and all transportation (for example, the bus garage or other infrastructure) and commercial development (for example, a mall, retail, office space) within this area of the site. The memorial must be the centerpiece of the redevelopment. We conceded to the infringement of the PATH train station within this area as long as it is incorporated into the memorial (for example, it could be named Sept. 11 Memorial Station). We've also communicated that in the event that Greenwich Street and Fulton Street are extended through the site, they must be pedestrian only.

Ensure that a memorial museum to Sept. 11 is erected within the area encased by the "slurry wall," and that museum is dedicated to Sept. 11 and February 26, 1993 only; we oppose any inclusion of other themes/issues within the memorial museum.

Secure a repository in the area encased by the "slurry wall" where all unidentified and unclaimed remains of the individuals murdered on Sept. 11 can be interred.

Ensure that all new World Trade Center construction is hallmarked by quality, safety and security, and built under the legal jurisdiction of local building and fire codes. (The former World Trade Center, built by the Port Authority, was immune from federal, state, and city building and fire codes.)

Pledge to continue to petition political and redevelopment leaders to include an adequate number of family members, survivors and rescue workers in the decision making process

If these important principles are considered and plans behind closed doors cease, "America's Memorial" at the World Trade Center site can be realized and American history will be preserved for this and future generations.

Anthony Gardner's brother Harvey Joseph Gardner III was killed in the September 11 attacks. Gardner is President of WTC United Family Group, a board member of the Coalition of 9-11 Families and a member of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation Family Advisory Council.

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