September 8, 2008
Scene of jet attack now is one of 'compassion'
By Andrea Stone and Charisse Jones, USA Today
ARLINGTON, Va. — Gravel crunches under Kathy Dillaber's feet as she walks to the cantilevered steel and granite bench that bears her sister's name. It is one of 184 benches, each hovering above a pool of lighted water.
To read the one inscribed "Patricia Mickley," the Army civilian must face the building where she and her kid sister were working on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Dillaber still works there. Her sister, a Defense Department civilian, lies in Arlington National Cemetery.
In between the Pentagon and the cemetery is the first permanent memorial at one of the three sites defined by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"I have a love-hate relationship with this place," says Dillaber, her eyes welling as she gingerly sits on Patty's bench. "I love all that went into it, all the compassion. … I hate that it has to be here."
Seven years after terrorists crashed passenger jets into the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and a grassy field in Pennsylvania, the first major memorial to their nearly 3,000 victims will be dedicated here Thursday. The 2-acre site will open to the public at 7 that evening. Memorials in New York and a rural township near Shanksville, Pa., won't be dedicated for at least another three years.
In lower Manhattan, where construction on at least seven major projects is underway at Ground Zero, a lasting tribute to the 2,750 who died there has been hindered by disagreements and competing priorities among government agencies, family groups and Wall Street interests.
In Pennsylvania, the National Park Service is still buying land for a 2,200-acre memorial to the 40 crewmembers and passengers of United Flight 93 who tried to overpower four hijackers before their jet crashed.
Hundreds of small memorials to the victims of Sept. 11 have appeared across the country, some within months of the attacks. Among the most recent: a tribute in Grapevine, Texas, to the 33 crewmembers killed that day aboard the four jets the terrorists hijacked. It sits near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, a hub for American Airlines, which lost two of the four hijacked jets on Sept. 11.
Seven years is "not a long time" to build a major memorial, says Ed Linenthal, an Indiana University religious studies professor who studies commemoration. The controversial Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington was dedicated about that long after the last U.S. troops left Saigon. The nearby World War II Memorial opened 59 years after that conflict ended.
Compared with the Pentagon memorial, however, the battle at Ground Zero has been "an incredible mess," Columbia University architecture professor Reinhold Martin says. "The World Trade Center has been burdened with a lot of national symbolism and overexposure."
The Pentagon memorial was "much more straightforward," says Martin, whose former student, Keith Kaseman, designed it with his wife, Julie Beckman. "It's a memorial to the people who died when the plane hit the Pentagon. The public doesn't expect it to do more." At the Pentagon
Families of those who died in the fiery crash of American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon's west side insisted that "anything with fire was eliminated" from the design, says James Laychak, whose brother David, 40, an Army civilian, was one of 125 people killed inside the building.
The families also wanted the memorial built as close as possible to where their loved ones died.
Despite the Pentagon's tight security and inaccessibility to tourists, they rejected 10 other sites suggested by the military.
"We wanted it here and we wouldn't settle for anything less," says Tom Heidenberger, whose wife, Michele, a flight attendant, was among the 59 victims on the plane.
Two months after the attack, family members formed a committee to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversaw an international design competition. By the time Kaseman's and Beckman's selection over more than 1,100 other entries was announced in March 2003, the Pentagon had been made whole, its gaping chasm repaired in time for the one-year anniversary of 9/11.
Fundraising took much longer. Three years after the attack, only $3 million had been raised for the $22 million memorial. After several large corporate donations, groundbreaking took place in June 2006.
Planners still have raised less than half the $10 million they need for long-term maintenance.
The memorial is just 200 feet from the impact site — the Pentagon's new limestone facade is noticeably lighter than the rest of the World War II-vintage building — and separated from the military fortress by a tall black fence. It is angled to trace Flight 77's path; benches for each victim are laid out along age lines from youngest (age 3) to oldest (71).
"A lot of family members, a lot of Pentagon employees are still hurting," says Laychak, who despite his role as president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund refuses to go near his brother's bench until the dedication. "This will provide them with some sense of closure."
For John Yates, an Army civilian employee who spent 2½ months in a hospital burn unit after his Pentagon office burst into flames, the memorial reminds him of a park where he can visit the two dozen friends he lost that day. Four of them were at his side as they watched the terrorist attacks in New York unfold on TV.
"People don't think about Sept. 11 until this time of the year," says Yates, 57. "I also think the Pentagon was forgotten. I don't say that to diminish anything of what happened in New York City or in Pennsylvania but … I think it's wonderful that we've gone from last to first."
Heidenberger says there is no rivalry. "This wasn't a race," he says. "It wasn't a contest to see who was going to be first. We just had the good fortune to come together to work for a common goal without divisiveness." At Ground Zero
In the yawning pit where the foundations of the World Trade Center once stood, a lone staircase sits below street level, a 58-ton testament to survival that waits for a museum to be built around it. The National September 11 Memorial was to have opened next year; the museum soon afterward.
But the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees much of the construction at the 16-acre site, has said the original schedule was too ambitious given the number of projects planned there. Not to mention the dizzying array of decision-makers involved that has included the governors of New York and New Jersey; real estate developer Larry Silverstein, who held the lease on the twin towers; and the survivors and families of those who died.
The original timetables were "not realistic," Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward wrote in June. "These estimates did not reflect the unprecedented challenges associated with a project this complex and a project involving so many different public and private stakeholders."
The Port Authority later this month plans to release revised deadlines for the memorial, along with those for the 1,776 foot-high Freedom Tower, four other skyscrapers and a new transportation hub. With $530 million in federal, state and private funds already secured, the goal is to open the memorial to the public by Sept. 11, 2011.
"The 10th anniversary is a critical date," says Lynn Rasic of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. "It's an important symbol of rebuilding for the country and the world."
The memorial will feature waterfalls flowing into the massive voids in the footprints of the twin towers. The names of victims at all three 9/11 sites and the six who died when the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993 will be etched in parapets surrounding the pools.
The underground museum will allow a view of the slurry wall, the barrier that holds back the Hudson River, the staircase that people used to flee the plaza near the North Tower and personal mementoes unearthed in the ruins.
Although the foundation for the memorial has been laid and steel columns that will make up its frame began going up last week, the project still has critics.
After 9/11, "there was a sense of, 'Let's use this awful tragedy to make the city better, to think of a new kind of memorial, a new downtown,' and that never happened," says Max Page, a professor of architecture and history at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. "I'm not hopeful. It will be a park ringed by office skyscrapers just like before."
But Judy Keane, whose husband, Richard, died on the 99th floor of the North Tower, expects the memorial to draw huge crowds no matter when it's done.
"I think New York is going to be inundated," says Keane, 61, of Wethersfield, Conn. When she hears people talk about 9/11, "the awe and disbelief is still ever present in their voices. I think the entire world will come to see it." At Shanksville, Pa.
For now, visitors pay tribute to the victims of Flight 93 at a simple chain-link fence and near a wooden cross. At this temporary memorial, two miles north of Shanksville, about 70 miles southeast of Pittsburgh and created not long after 9/11, they leave words of remembrance and rosaries, teddy bears and tears.
A few hundred yards away is the field — the massive, grassy grave where Flight 93 crashed.
The field is only one piece of a permanent memorial that will begin to take shape next year. The first part will be a memorial plaza next to the area where the jet went down and a roughly 100-foot wall inscribed with the victims' names. The goal is to complete both by Sept. 11, 2011.
A "Tower of Voices" with 40 wind chimes, groves of trees and a passageway between sloping walls that traces the path of Flight 93 in its final seconds will be added later.
The first phase of the project, which includes construction of the walls and a road, will cost $57 million, says Keith Newlin of the National Park Service. There are no estimates on the final cost or date for completion.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle is assembling the land for the memorial through purchases and easements. The non-profit Families of Flight 93 has acquired hundreds of acres but hundreds more — including the actual crash site — must be purchased from private owners.
"We're not building something on three city blocks," says Joanne Hanley, superintendent of the National Parks of Western Pennsylvania. "We're starting from scratch in the middle of nowhere to build an entire national park. Rather than do it quickly, we'd rather do it right."
Gordon Felt, whose older brother Edward died on Flight 93, says he's frustrated that work hasn't progressed faster.
"But when I look at it from a historical perspective," he says, "that we're building something unprecedented, to expect something to be built so quickly is unrealistic."
There also has been controversy over the memorial's design. One family member, Tom Burnett Sr., complained that the ring of trees evoked a crescent, a symbol of Islam, the faith of the hijackers. He also says the Tower of Voices resembles a mosque's minaret. Trees have been added to the grove to make it a circle, says its designer, Paul Murdoch.
There are "no Islamic secret symbols hidden in that memorial," Newlin says.
Deborah Borza, who lost her 20-year-old daughter, Deora Bodley, that day, says a permanent memorial will allow others to share what she feels in the pilgrimages she makes each year to honor her child in the stillness.
"I take my family and friends there and I start pointing out where the Tower of Voices will be, where the ring of trees will be," she says, "and we're all getting goose bumps. It's perfect."
At the Pentagon, project manager Jean Barnak hopes that memorial will serve a larger purpose.
"We're happy that until the others get there, we do have a place for people to come from around the country," she says. "We see it as a national memorial. It's meant to help the whole country heal." Jones reported from New York and Shanksville, Pa.