Creating the best memorial for everyone

Sept. 11, 2001 was the day we began to see the strength of New Yorkers, Americans and freedom-loving people all over the world. Immediately after the planes hit the buildings, firefighters and police officers rushed to the scene to help Port Authority officers evacuate thousands of workers from the burning towers. Just over 400 uniformed officers and many others died helping others escape. All told, 3,016 innocent people were killed in three cities on that awful day.

That simple and amazing story of bravery and sacrifice must be told in some unimaginably creative way at the public memorial at the World Trade Center site. It won’t be enough to say that people must pay admission to an adjacent 9/11 museum in order to understand what happened.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which is overseeing the memorial plans, announced last week that 13,683 people from 94 countries have registered to design the memorial for the 9/11 victims and the six people who were killed in the 1993 W.T.C. bombing. The 13-member jury is scheduled to pick the memorial design this October.

The L.M.D.C. has quite properly directed the would-be designers to treat all of the precious lives that were lost as if they were equally precious. They were. The firefighter from Queens, the bond trader from New Jersey and the bus boy from the Bronx all deserved to live a life free from terrorism. Their murders as well as all of the others are tragic.

The would-be designers have been given flexibility to create the best way to honor those who were lost. There are an infinite number of ways to remember the sacrifice, bravery and tragedy. While it is essential to make sure none of the lost lives appear to be less valuable than any others, it is also important that the memorial reflect what happened on that day.

Computer technology would make it easy to group the fallen many different ways — by engine and ladder companies, police precincts, company firms, etc. And pictures of the victims could also quickly convey who was an officer and who was not — something many firefighters and their relatives have requested. There are many different ways to use technology and photos and there are other possible ways — which we are quite sure we can’t imagine — to accomplish all of the memorial goals.

We also know there are other important considerations for the memorial. East-west pedestrian access must be improved near and at architect Daniel Libeskind’s proposed memorial area.

The “footprints” of the Twin Towers will forever be honored and preserved in the memorial area – as many family members have demanded. Underneath the memorial, the consensus among family members is — to their credit – to accept PATH commuter tracks to run over the footprints. The spectacular memorial that we all want will require some place for the tourist buses it will attract to park and the most sensible place to keep the buses is underneath the memorial. This will put noisy, unsightly, polluting buses out of the view of victims’ families, residents and office workers – three groups with big stakes in the site’s future.

Some family members have unfortunately raised objections to a bus garage and asked planners to look for alternate sites. Such a search, although motivated by arbitrary objections, is nevertheless productive. The largest number of visitors to the memorial is expected to be in the first few years after it is built. Port Authority planners, by their own admission, have not identified enough space for the additional tour buses to park when the memorial is still new. If space for additional parking is found somewhere else at or near the site, it will be able to accommodate the additional tour buses. There is also no place for many of the commuter buses coming into Lower Manhattan and if alternate parking sites were located, it could alleviate this demand.

The demand for parking will be created by an inspiring design by one of the 13,000 artists. We look forward to discovering that great design in less than five months. The only thing we are sure of is it is something we can’t conceive of today.


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