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The National September 11 Memorial and Museum will open, at least halfway, in less than 90 days. We say “halfway” because the “museum” portion will not open until next year, 2012. But when the memorial half opens, it will serve — as its name states — as a “National” monument.
The discussion over whether or not Lower Manhattan residents, who did not lose a loved one during the attack, should be allowed to visit the memorial on 9/11/11 when it opens is a debate that will never be won; a harmony, a prefect solution, an acceptable resolve to the issue will never exist.
The name “National September 11 Memorial” says it all, in our opinion. It is a memorial that the entire country, and the entire world, should be able to observe and appreciate. Just as the events of that day reached far beyond Lower Manhattan, from ashes floating onto rooftops in Brooklyn to heartbreaking images witnessed on a television in Iowa in the home of a parent of a North Tower worker, the memorial will touch and be open to everyone.
But, on September 11, 2011, just as it has been for the last nine years, the memorial, the day and the up-close-and-personal remembrance should be reserved for family members only.
We fully understand the voices of those in the community who want to be part of the 9/11/11 ceremony. For those of us that live and work in Lower Manhattan, who watched the tragedy unfold from our schools, streets or windows, who had to sweep out ashes from our living rooms for months on end, who might have been displaced from our homes for weeks, or longer — we know that we have a special and deep connection to this memorial and museum in the heart of our neighborhood.
That is why we appreciate the decision to host “community evenings” on the first Sunday of every month, reserved for Lower Manhattan residents only. And it is a decision we believe was thought-out and carefully considered.
The staff at the memorial and museum has had to sit with family members from all over the country and world and explain their decisions. Anyone who thinks they can step in at this moment, and second-guess those who have for the last several years have devoted their lives to this issue, should think twice. No one has the legitimacy to substitute his or her judgment when it comes to a decision as emotionally laden and as important as this. We wonder whether or not a community board member, who easily speaks out in front of their peers and the press, could speak the same words in front of a mother who lost her son on that day.
We should point out that 11 of the memorial’s board members lost a loved one. They are not removed from this argument. Indeed, they are facilitating it and they are making the tough and correct decisions.
Is it enough to offer the community a special time on the first Sunday of each month for a few months of the year? The question, the debate, the concern over this issue will and should not disappear. It is a dialogue that only serves a positive purpose. And we have confidence that the memorial and museum staff will once again sort through the emotional and logistical issues and find the right balance and solution. We have seen them do this time and time again.
But for all of us denizens of Lower Manhattan, who can easily walk to the memorial on our lunch breaks or on the weekend, we should recognize the privilege and not deny it for a mother, a brother or a child who needs the day more than we do.