Multiple proposals emerge for ground zero
NEW YORK — Tom Rogers's business is building memorials.
His company worked on the sleek black granite salute to Vietnam veterans and it is currently helping to craft the great arched plaza that will honor the dead from World War II on the mall in Washington.
But now Mr. Rogers finds himself in what he calls the "unenviable" position of contemplating a memorial to pay homage to his own daughter, Jean.
She was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11 when it crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11.
"I know how these things are done and I have a deep personal interest in seeing that it's not rushed, that it's done right," he says.
As the cranes and backhoes continue to clear the now sprawling 16-acre site in lower Manhattan where almost 3,000 lives were lost, a new urgency grows around what to build there next. The clean-up could be complete as early as June, making way for construction.
But what to put there remains a disquieting dilemma: How do you balance the need to honor the dead and forever remind the living of the horror and heroism - and, at the same time, foster economic development in an area still crippled by the terrorists?
There are dozens of competing interests, each with their own ideas - from the developer that held the lease on the World Trade Center to the local bar owner in the neighborhood. It is a charged, emotional debate, but so far one in which great delicacy is being shown by all involved. And none more so than by the families of victims whose opinions reflect the vast - and sometimes contradictory - array of options, from turning the whole 16-acre site into a memorial, to rebuilding new towers of capitalist might as an answer to the terrorists' attack.
"This is something that's very important and very special for the whole country," says Stephen Push of Families of September 11th, who lost his wife in the crash at the Pentagon. "Centuries from now, people will look back at this as one of the most important events in the nation's history and what we put there has to reflect that."
The commission charged with the delicate task of finding a compromise worthy of a national tribute is spending the next four to eight weeks simply listening. Its chairman, John Whitehead, has said he'd like to build a monument to rival the Lincoln or Jefferson memorials. But he also signaled an interest in combining it with office buildings, restaurants, and cultural institutions, like museums. That raised some hackles among the families of the victims.
At the commission's second meeting last week, Mr. Whitehead said they were not yet ready to make any decisions.
"Every citizen has an interest in this undertaking, and we have been forming advisory boards so that the many constituencies involved can participate in the process," he says.
LAST week, Mr. Whitehead named an advisory panel made up of family members. One of them is Monica Iken, a teacher whose husband, Michael, died in the attacks. His remains have not been found. To help deal with her grief she founded September's Mission, which is dedicated to ensuring an appropriate memorial is constructed.
Initially, Ms. Iken thought that the six acres that make up the footprint of the two towers and the immediate vicinity would be enough for a memorial.
But then she went down and actually saw the site, and that transformed her thinking. Like former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, she would now like to use the entire 16 acres to build "the most beautiful memorial."
"Those buildings exploded, you don't know where those souls landed, you don't know where they're laid to rest," she says. "You can't say it's OK to build right here, because you don't know - the whole site is sacred, it's really a burial ground."
Jack Lynch, who lost his firefighter son Michael on Sept. 11, agrees the ground is sacred; "consecrated by the blood of the victims," he says. And because his son's remains also have not been found, right now, the site is his graveyard. But Mr. Lynch has a very different idea of how it should be used. He's in favor of a memorial where the towers and the Marriott Hotel stood, but he'd like the rest rebuilt.
"If we do not rebuild commercially, I feel like the terrorists have defeated us - that's our way of life, and they were attacking our way of life," he says.
Still, he is full of gentleness when he talks about other family members with different ideas.
"I disagree with Monica, but if her viewpoint prevails, that won't bother me at all," he says.
That kind of tolerance is heard among many family members. John Cartier's brother James was killed while working in the World Trade Center. He was a member of the local electricians union, as is Mr. Cartier.
"My personal opinion is that I'd like a certain amount of property designated for a memorial and the other percentage to be rebuilt to show the world that they can knock 'em down but we'll build them right back up," he says.
Mr. Cartier points to his friend, New York police officer Stephen Campbell, whose wife Jill perished in the inferno. "He's the one who wants the whole 16 acres," Cartier says.
Mr. Campbell was digging down at the site in the immediate aftermath, and has worked shifts there since then.
"Right now, I just can't see building anything there," he says.
But something will be constructed, and the family members are determined that - whatever it is - it pays proper tribute to their loved ones and the enormity of the event. Still none of them, at least right now, wants a political fight to mar the outcome.
"We're one big family now," says Cartier, explaining. "His wife is now my sister, my brother is his brother. We'll work it out."