Volume 17 • Issue 27 | Dec. 03 - Dec. 09, 2004

Letter from the editor

Raising money for the memorial

Wednesday’s announcement of the first 31 directors of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation was welcome news. Efforts to create the foundation and begin the daunting task of raising perhaps $500 million have been stymied up until now. This group of directors includes A-list C.E.O.’s with Rolodexes money can’t buy – precisely what will be needed to ensure that the memories of the 2,800 or so killed Sept. 11, 2001 and the six who died on Feb. 26, 1993 will be properly honored and recognized. It is uncomfortable to discuss dollars in connection with the precious lives that were so much more valuable than any amount of money, but the reality is the memorial and cultural center won’t get built without paying the bills.

Gov. George Pataki was correct when he said last week that the memorial is the highest priority and that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation should spend some money to make sure it gets built. But with Pataki’s most recent promise to use L.M.D.C. money to help pay to build the Downtown section of the Hudson River Park, the L.M.D.C. will be left with less than $800 million to fund a long list of worthy projects including building and preserving more affordable housing, improving the East River waterfront and providing $25 million to help build a K-8 school on the East Side. These are the type of investments that will secure Lower Manhattan’s long-term future and will mean the Sept. 11 attack was ultimately unsuccessful. That was the intent of Congress and the president when they gave the L.M.D.C. nearly $3 billion to help Downtown recover.

We recognize that the L.M.D.C. must also provide some money for the memorial and cultural center. Wednesday’s announcement should mean that it won’t have to be an overwhelming amount because this group has the capability to be a formidable fundraising organization. In addition to the C.E.O.’s and other prominent leaders, there are many relatives of victims. All four of the living ex-presidents are honorary members and our billionaire mayor, Mike Bloomberg, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Pataki are trustees. This is an impressive list of people who will not let their reputations suffer by coming up short. Pataki, Bloomberg and John Whitehead, interim foundation chairperson, deserve praise for putting the group together.

It is also good to see that included in the group of family members, there are different views on how the names of the victims should be listed. One told us that he has concerns because the proposed shields to be near the names of uniform officers killed could create a hierarchy. Another said he wants the firefighters, police officers and others grouped by firehouse, precinct or company name for those family members who want to see their loved ones listed with their co-workers.

The compromise proposed by memorial designer Michael Arad in which the names are listed randomly with shields next to the rescue workers, at the end of the day, may turn out to be the only viable solution. But we are pleased that this emotional issue looks like it will continue to be discussed by the people on the inside – the members of the new foundation.

There is a danger of course that continuing the debate on emotional issues could lead to more delays, but it is vital that each family and others feel their views are heard by the foundation board. That is the way to get the public to embrace the memorial design and make sure it gets built.

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