Build the memorial now
With construction of the World Trade Center memorial scheduled to begin this month, some loved ones of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks are stepping up their efforts to delay the project. There are important details of the memorial design still to be worked out, and we do have concerns about the plan, but work can and should begin before everything is decided. Yet another setback in Downtowns redevelopment would be unwise and unnecessary.
The memorial represents not just a fitting way to pay tribute to the nearly 3,000 people killed, but it will also begin to heal the tangible, physical wound in Lower Manhattan. The hole in the ground we have been looking at for four and a half years must begin to close.
Many of the relatives looking to stop the project are now saying that the memorial should be at street level. Six acres of the memorial already are at street level, and happen to be the part of the design we like the most a forest of oak trees in a dense business district. This, in our view, is a powerful honor for the people killed and will convey an unmistakable feeling of life and beauty.
We are certain that not all of the people in 3,000 families agree with us about the trees, nor will all 300 million Americans, nor will the hundreds of millions of people who live in countries that also lost citizens on 9/11. A design that everyone likes is impossible.
The memorial design went through what is likely the most democratic review of any memorial in the world, taking into account family members concerns and desires at every step of the way. Whether you agree with every result or not, there comes a time to move ahead, and that time is now.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority have taken extraordinary measures to preserve large portions of the bedrock area of the Twin Tower footprints in direct response to the most important concern of many family members. The plan for names listed underground came after extensive consultations with family members and has been in the plan for three years. Precisely how the names will be listed is a significant issue that is not settled, but it can be decided after more extensive consultations with family members while construction proceeds.
The real costs of this expanded, 8-acre memorial will be considerably more than $1 billion when you factor in the price to open up more of the bedrock, which includes the L.M.D.C. purchase of the Deutsche Bank building as a site to relocate truck ramps; and the time and expense involved in finding places to move large utility equipment and a garage planned to accommodate tour bus visitors paying their respects to the victims.
The cost does give us long pause and the plan cannot be continually added to, or delayed. This hole has been in Downtowns heart and on its streets for too long, and we long for the day when we have a place to remember the fallen with dignity and can see groves of trees near Wall St. to remind us that life is more important than money.