As the fourth anniversary has come to pass, Ground Zero remains an open pit. A scar on the earth, its emptiness reflecting
the pain of that morning. Tourists from all corners of the globe still flock to the site, curious to see the epicenter of
this historic event. They are hungry for information, hungry to learn about the events of that day. And four years later all
we have on that site is dust, a cross of beams, and a metal fence with a brief history of the World Trade Center along with
a list of those who perished. This past year saw mostly battles and controversies erupt over exactly what should be done in
order to rebuild the area and memorialize the dead and the missing.
Freedom Tower not free from controversy
The first building planned to be constructed as part of the rebuilding is the Freedom Tower. Its symbolic height of 1776
feet represents the year when America attained her freedom. So far it has been beset by controversy and numerous redesigns.
This past year saw another redesign to make it more "safe" in this post 9/11 world. The start date for the construction to
begin was once again delayed. Currently, all that sits on the site is the cornerstone laid by New York's Governor George Pataki.
Another building at the center of controversy this year was the Freedom Center.
Originally conceived to hold information
about not only 9/11 but also on the world's history of human rights abuses. However, the families and survivors of 9/11 feel
that this is not appropriate for a space so close to Ground Zero. On September 10, just a day before the 4th anniversary,
they staged a protest at Ground Zero. "Preserve Sacred Ground" was their rallying cry and are requesting that only materials
relating to 9/11 here in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania should be included. A mediator has recently been recruited
to help museum officials and the families communicate.
A tale of two theatres
Two performing arts centers are planned for the rebuilding of the area around Ground Zero. For various reasons these
buildings have gone through numerous redesigns. However, as the redesigning goes on there arises the issue of funding. Money
is not forthcoming. The theatres seem to be no more than a footnote. Their sponsors realize that the Memorial and Freedom
Center take precedence, but wonder how much longer they can pour funds into the planning stage without having any guarantee
of results. And many people ponder the need of performing arts space so close to hollowed ground.
Redesigning the Memorial design - again
How many iterations does this make from the originally submitted concept? I lost count. All this writer knows, is that
after over 5000 people poured their hearts and souls into submissions in 2003, two years later we have a design that is in
constant flux, not really liked as the choice and no ground breaking plans even contemplated.
Fresh Kills Landfill still contains human remains
The biggest controversy remains over what to do at the Fresh Kills Landfill. Those whose loved ones remains were never
recovered feel this is now a cemetery containing sacred ground. Others have petitioned that all the debris should be moved
elsewhere. The city wants to turn it into a cemetery of sorts. But at present it is still just part of a closed landfill,
a place where these people can't even go to grieve. How sad...
The shroud is removed
Starting out our "positive" section, the Deutche Bank building next to ground Zero, the tall building with the black
covering over its entire façade, will finally to be torn down. For years it was a constant reminder of the destruction the
fall of the Towers caused to nearby property. It was another ping pong piece: First they were going to decontaminate it, then
they were going to tear it down, then they were afraid that would spread contaminants. Now they've hired environmental specialists
and slowly it's being dismantled piece by piece.
Voices of 9/11
On another more upbeat note was the release of the tapes of the New York City firefighters' last radio conversations.
It took all this time for the loved ones of the lost and missing firefighters to have the tapes of their last utterances.
The news stories showed individuals crying as they held CD's with these recorded voices, for some all that they will ever
have of their loved ones.
7 World Trade Center is nearly completed
The first building to be nearing completion, 7 World Trade Center, is nothing like its original namesake. This one is
built to post 9/11 specifications to protect against terrorists' attacks. It's nice to see at least one building rising from
the ashes but the question still remains as to who will occupy it. Most businesses seem to be shying away from relocating
back to such a traumatic place. So will it remain empty? Tune in next year.
New Transportation Hub design selected
Construction has just begun on the first phase of what will become the new "Transportation Hub." Conceived as linking
the PATH trains, and 4 subway lines it is a massive undertaking that will take years to realize. Presently all it will accomplish
is inconvenience people by shutting down one of the subway stations near Ground Zero, and creating construction blockages
right near the eastern perimeter. According to the designer, Santiago Calatrava, it will embody the spirit of 9/11 in it's
soaring steel columns, spacious areas, and pools of light. It is seen by him as both a tribute to those who were lost in the
attack and as a symbol of renewal. Let's hope it lives up to its hype.
Tribute Center to open in Spring of 2006
Eventually, there will be a place called the Tribute Center, where tourists can come and learn about what happened on
that day. Slated to open in Spring of 2006, there will be displays and tour guides of sorts will be available to tell the
story to people out on the street.
Time marches on
As this 5th year progresses, let us see what becomes of both the controversies and the positive elements rising near
Ground Zero. Will this be the year we see progress...or will this be a continuing "war" over whose vision will predominate
for our nation's most sacred ground?
c 2005 Leona M Seufert