Friday, April 01, 2011

The Rebuilding of Ground Zero, Part 130

Construction continues all around Ground Zero, and now that the former Deutsche Bank building has been demolished, plans are underway to utilize a portion of the site as a visitor's plaza for the 9/11 Museum. The site will eventually be used as the Vehicle Security Center for the World Trade Center complex, but due to construction throughout the site, visitors need a place from which they can enter safely.
With the Memorial on track to open to the public on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. authorized the funds to redevelop a small sliver of 130 Liberty St.

The building, contaminated by toxic debris from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was finally dismantled this winter after endless blunders, costly delays and a horrific 2007 blaze that cost the lives of two firefighters, Robert Beddia, 53, and Joseph Graffagnino, 33.

"This is where the visitor's experience will begin," said Joe Daniels, president of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum.

"It's the perfect use of the space, it's inexpensive and it provides a huge amenity," he said.

"Plus, it gets people off the streets and sidewalks, protects them during construction and takes into account the needs of the residential population."

Only the southernmost portion of the parcel will be used for the Welcome Plaza.

Visitors will present their passes there, listen to a brief talk about the site, and proceed along paths to a West Street entrance gate to Ground Zero.

Opening Sept. 12 - when the public will be allowed to visit the Memorial - the plaza will be used until adjacent World Trade Center construction projects are completed, which could be several years.
Meanwhile, the Port Authority has issued updates on its construction schedule and progress in building the WTC Memorial.

There's a new controversy brewing with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and that has to do with what to do with the thousands of remains that have yet to be identified. Some families don't want the unidentified remains to be placed within the museum as a tourist lure.
“To allow remains to be put in a museum, really for gawkers,” marveled Sally Regenhard, the mother of a 28-year-old probationary firefighter and aspiring writer, Christian, who died on Sept. 11, 2001. “I personally feel I’ve been robbed of access to where my son’s remains are potentially being buried. My entire family, we will never go in there. This is a post-traumatic stress situation waiting to happen.”

How to handle remains is one of the most delicate questions that confront those trying to commemorate the darker chapters of human history. Over the past 20 years, museums across the country have grappled with how to repatriate Native American skeletons, scalps and bones to their tribal heirs, as prescribed by a 1990 federal law. At its inception, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington debated whether to display human hair from the Nazi death camps, and decided not to when some survivors felt it would be offensive.

In Oklahoma City, unidentified remains of the 168 victims of the 1995 bombing are buried under a grove of 168 trees on the State Capitol complex — two and a half miles from the museum chronicling the events. In Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, only family members are allowed access to the crash site, which is assumed to contain some remains of the 40 passengers and crew members, though there will eventually be an elaborate memorial open to the public surrounding it. At Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, ashes from the Nazi death camps are kept in the Hall of Remembrance, separate from the museum, which turns away people who bring remains from the fields surrounding the camps.

“We are not dealing with anatomy,” said Avner Shalev, Yad Vashem’s chairman. “This is our policy.”

The plan at the World Trade Center is for the remains to be invisible and inaccessible to the public, museum officials said; an adjoining room will be available to victims’ families for contemplation and grief. Although people would have to enter the museum to get to the remains, the remains will technically be in the custody of the medical examiner, so that they may be removed for future testing.

Alice Greenwald, the museum’s director, said that because the museum would be at ground zero, it had a special place in history.

“Yad Vashem is not the site of an atrocity,” Ms. Greenwald said. “When you go to the genocide museum in Phnom Penh, when you go to genocide museums all around Rwanda, there have been decisions in those places to present corpses, skulls, evidence of human remains. When you go to Auschwitz, the entire facility is made up of human remains.

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