Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11: Seven Years Later

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It's hard to believe that seven years have passed since that incredibly awful day. I can still remember it as vividly now as I could on that morning. Here's what I wrote for the six year anniversary, and much of what was written then is just as valid today. Many still are tormented and challenged by the emotional demons and physical scars of that day, wondering how they were able to survive when so many of their friends, colleagues, and others didn't.

Even though the horrors of that day have receded into memory, the scars of that day are present, even if they are just below the surface. Health concerns remain an issue and this past week, the cause of death for NYPD officer James Zadroga was reargued as a New Yorker article presented still more evidence that he died not of 9/11 related inhalation of Ground Zero dust, but of pain killers. That has serious repercussions for the thousands of others seeking additional benefits from the city, state, and federal government claiming that they too were harmed by inhaling Ground Zero air.
In June, the city released a detailed analysis of medical records of 10,000 people suing for Ground Zero-related benefits: It showed that 30 percent had only nominal health issues, that many had no current health problems and that others were claiming illnesses that couldn't possibly be linked to 9/11.

Indeed, the survey more than justified City Hall's refusal simply to pay out billions to anyone simply claiming a 9/11-related illness.

Which is why we fail to understand why Mayor Bloomberg and Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden are now taking the opposite approach - by inviting New Yorkers to claim victimhood.

The city recently launched a $5 million ad campaign urging anyone who lived or worked in Lower Manhattan in the aftermath of 9/11 to come forward.
While we must do all we can to treat those workers who are affected with lasting respiratory effects, ensuring that others do not take advantage of the large sums of money being spent on 9/11 health issues is important as well.

As for the actual construction at Ground Zero, there has been some serious progress, but there remain serious setbacks and delays.

The first steel beams for the 9/11 Memorial are finally being erected, and there are questions over whether this was just symbolic or a real tangible step forward. Given how there was tremendous fanfare when Gov. Pataki laid the cornerstone of the Freedom Tower several years ago, it's a valid question. After that cornerstone was laid, no work was actually done on the Tower and the Port Authority had to move the cornerstone to a different location altogether because of security concerns over the Tower's initial siting. Still, a look around the Ground Zero work site and you can see construction progressing. A new rendition of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum has been released (more here), and two of the easily recognizable tridents from the original Twin Towers will be incorporated as central features of the museum.
Though the broad outlines of the design have been known for some time, the unveiling on Tuesday provided and confirmed some key details about the $80 million pavilion, which is being financed by New York State. The polygonal pavilion will range in height from 57 to 72 feet (roughly equal to a six-story office building). It will contain 47,499 square feet of floor area; 34,834 square feet devoted to public programs and museum functions, the rest to ventilating ductwork and mechanical equipment serving the underground museum, the nearby World Trade Center Transportation Hub and the No. 1 subway line.

The ground floor will have ticket windows, a large security area in which visitors will undergo airport-style screening, and a staircase, escalators and elevators down which they will begin a trip that will lead them nearly 70 feet below street level, ending near an exposed part of the slurry wall. There will also be exit doors ushering them into the heart of the memorial plaza.

On the second floor will be a 180-seat auditorium, a private room in which relatives of 9/11 victims may gather, an overlook from which visitors can take in a sweeping view of the memorial, and a small cafe. (”For sustenance,” Mr. Dykers said, “not a restaurant per se.”)

The third floor will be given over entirely to equipment and ventilation.
The museum is set to open in 2012 (the 11th anniversary), a year after the memorial, which is scheduled to open by 9/11/2011. [note: fixed the preceding paragraph to clarify when the museum and memorial are to be open to the public.]

Steel is rising at the Freedom Tower, though it is barely poking above street level. Concrete bathtubs have been poured along the Church Street and Greenwich Street corridor, enabling the construction of 2, 3, and 4 WTC.

The former Deutsche Bank building is still a hulking ruin continues to loom large over the rest of the site. Fiterman Hall isn't much better. PATH has a temporary station for its temporary station, as construction on the Santiago Calatrava transit center is underway. The PATH service has been uninterrupted, but there are concerns about serious cost overruns that might result in changes to the Calatrava plan. Many aspects of his plan have been scaled back, but construction is well underway for the East/West connector that would guide customers to the PATH terminal from the World Financial Center and the general plan is moving foward.

7WTC looks like it is going to be a huge success for Larry Silverstein, as it continues to garner new tenants to fill out its space.

Businesses around Lower Manhattan continue to struggle not only because of current economic conditions, but because of construction blocking pedestrian traffic including the Fulton Street Transit Hub, and this article takes a closer look at three which relocated after their locations were destroyed by the collapsing Twin Towers.

A new 9/11 related curriculum is being launched for high schools across the country. 9/11 related charities are evolving and expanding from their core mission as their original mission goals were satisfied or funding has dried up or the charities have ceased to exist.
"We've been able to evolve, to reflect the ongoing and changing needs of 9/11," said Gardner, executive director of the nonprofit, now based in Brick Township.

Gardner's experience is typical of 9/11 charities. Many of the hundreds of organizations and funds that sprang up after the attacks have closed down, disappeared or changed direction as funding streams for 9/11 programs have dried up and donors have turned to other causes.

In New Jersey alone, a majority of the 30 organizations launched that year have ceased operating or disappeared. In some cases, the work stopped when money was gone. While the major disaster funds ran out of cash, other sources simply turned their attention to other problems and programs, 9/11 charity officials say.

"It's made fundraising difficult," said Gardner, whose brother, Harvey, died in the attack on the North Tower. "The (early) focus was on spending the relief funds down. But that is to the detriment of 9/11 groups struggling to continue to provide services."
This year will also mark the opening of the 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon. A North Jersey lighting company was involved in the construction of the memorial, which includes 186 benches cantilevered over small pools which are lit from the underside. A photo of the memorial can be seen here. There remain security concerns about having a public memorial so close to the nerve center for the US military, but it is the right thing to do. That memorial cost $22 million and will be open 24/7 beginning September 11 of this year.

Compare that with the $1 billion and counting that will go to the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero. It's not easy to compare the sites, given what is involved and the sheer size of the projects and what is envisioned for the site.

Construction is also moving along on the Shanksville memorial to Flight 93, even as some families wonder how the design was approved with clear Islamic influence - the shape of the memorial is that of an Islamic crescent, and which is oriented towards Mecca. Local businesses and politicians are trying to figure out how to handle the influx of people that would come to the memorial site, including other business opportunities for tourism.

Flopping Aces has much more on the Shanksville Memorial.

Anyone who walks around Ground Zero in Manhattan would find people selling photos or books of the 9/11 attacks, along with photos of the day. I find that somewhat crass, but at the same time, it's important that people see what happened that day and not forget what happened. The further away from 9/11 we get, the more the details fade away. It is just too important to let that happen.

Then again, there are plenty of people who don't quite get what happened on 9/11 is a reflection of an ongoing war by Islamists against the US. They don't (as seen by comments here). It can be traced back to the the PLO hijackings of the 1970s, Iranian attack on the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979, and through to the Hizbullah bombing of the US Marine Barracks in 1983, the 1993 WTC bombing (which happened 15 years ago), and then the attacks on the US Embassies in Africa, the USS Cole, to say nothing of the dozens of terror attacks in between.

The failure treat the Islamist threat seriously convinced Islamic terrorist group leaders, including Osama bin Laden, that they could launch ever more audacious attacks to impose their view on the world - to force the US to leave its allies hanging and to enable the Islamists to establish dominion. It was only after 9/11 that the US responded to the Islamists' war on the US with the kind of vigor necessary to defeat the Islamists.

Al Qaeda and the Islamists disdain for non believers grew increasingly violent as they saw that they could attack and attack without repercussions. They saw that there were tremendous weaknesses in US will and security, and they took advantage of it, to deadly effect. Now, they have to spend more time watching their backs than plotting future attacks.

Meanwhile, the Port Authority is in the process of reducing its police presence around the Port Authority Bus Terminal as a cost-cutting measure. I think that's a short sighted idea given that the Islamic terrorists who hit on 9/11 have had compatriots who have repeatedly sought to attack Port Authority operations - including the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels and the PATH system. Such is the state of affairs at Ground Zero and related operations in 2008.

And after spending years on the sidelines barely paying attention to Ground Zero redevelopment, and offering up platitudes and complaints about the need to rebuild office space (instead pushing residential use over commercial space), Mayor Bloomberg is now pushing to have a greater say in Ground Zero redevelopment. That's not going to help redevelopment and may actually slow it down further as Bloomberg pushes his own ideas. Still, Bloomberg is right on the money by calling on the Port Authority to complete the 9/11 memorial by the 10th anniversary and to scale back the PATH transit hub. Of course, the Port Authority is already moving in that direction on both counts, so it's a bit like preaching to the converted. The Mayor would also like to dismantle the LMDC, which has overseen rebuilding throughout the site, and has had ownership of the former Deutsche Bank building. Instead, the LMDC oversight would be put in the hands of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center (LMCCC), which is a city-state agency that is managing the development of the site and coordinating construction projects in Lower Manhattan.

As for the actual commemoration taking place on the 11th, here's a list of street closures in Lower Manhattan, a list of events around the region, and other local observances around the country.

Also, the public is invited to come down to Battery Park and sign steel beams that will be incorporated into the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero today (the 10th, and 11th) (via Mrs. Lawhawk).

A new 9/11 memorial was dedicated on Tuesday in Boston, which is where American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 departed from Logan on Sept. 11, 2001.

Freedom Tower rising 7/08 by lawhawk (c) 2008

UPDATE:
Curbed has many more WTC construction photos.

ADDENDUM:
As I now work in Lower Manhattan within view of Ground Zero, I rode to work this morning (as I normally do) on PATH, which runs through Ground Zero. I had the opportunity and privilege of being inside Ground Zero this morning within the time frame of the first plane hitting while sitting on the PATH train. We stopped before entering Ground Zero at the moment the first plane hit. It was an eerie feeling and one of tremendous sadness. The crowd of people that surges through the PATH station was quieter than normal, which I attribute to the solemnity of the day. I had thought I would take photos of the site and the commemorations in and around Ground Zero, but I realized that I simply could not. The emotions are far too raw, and the protesters - and they will get their undue coverage - made my blood boil.

You had your Troofers - those who engage in conspiracy mongering about who was behind the 9/11 attacks. You have the blame Bush crowd - complete with banners claiming that Bush was behind the terrorist attacks. And then you had several people claiming to be soldiers against the war in Iraq. They too had swarms of photographers and journalists photographing and taking video.

To me, the more poignant views were those of the family members clutching photos of their loved ones, many of whose remains were never recovered. They buried empty caskets. There were the firefighters and police officers from around the region and the country who are coming to pay respects to their brothers who made the supreme sacrifices by running into the burning buildings all while anyone else would be running away.

UPDATE:
Michelle Malkin and Glenn Reynolds both have major wrapups. The Anchoress remembers and offers up a prayer. Jammie will never forget nor forgive the Islamic terrorists who carried out the attacks. Sister Toldjah reposts her Project 2996 remembrance of Peter Edward Mardikian. My co-blogger Legalbgl has previously memorialized Donna Bernaerts-Kearns and Daniel Thomas Afflitto.

Others remembering 9/11: Ace, Lorie Byrd, Gateway Pundit, Macranger, AJ Strata, Don Surber, and Jules Crittenden.

UPDATE:
The New York Sun has a progress on the construction progress at Ground Zero. Much of what's contained in that report tracks the progress I've seen over the past year.

UPDATE:
Instapundit links. Thanks! I am updating this post throughout the day, and will report back later this afternoon on my impressions of the sights and sounds from around Ground Zero.

UPDATE:
Urban Infidel has done the thankless job of photographing the conspiracy freaks, the troofers, and the other protesters who flock to Ground Zero every year. Many thanks for doing what I was unable to do.

UPDATE:
Legalbgl has again offered up a memorial of another victim of the Islamic terror attacks on 9/11. He memorializes Alison Marie Wildman.

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