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Memorial Planning: Don’t Let The Families’ Wishes Be Ignored

 To the Editor:

Well, I must say it is rather stupefying to read that Joe Daniels, “President and CEO” of the “National September 11 Memorial” at the World Trade Center has advised the Newtown 12/14 memorial committee that “the input they solicit will be extremely important, especially the various perspectives and emotional relationships to the event itself.”  And “tons of input from our families.” [“Memorial Representatives Advise: Input And Process Vital To Permanent 12/14 Memorial,” The Newtown Bee, 3/7/14.]

This is ironic since officials running the memorial process in New York not only did their best to ignore the families but also the actions and expressed wishes of the general public.

From nearly the beginning, the vast majority of families wanted the victims listed by whom they were with and why they were at the World Trade Center – as the flyers of the missing, created by the families and embraced by the public as our first memorials included. This meant listing the 648 victims of Cantor Fitzgerald, the people the nation witnessed trapped on the top floors of the towers, together. It meant listing the passengers on the planes together. It meant identifying the firefighters and police officers by department and rank. It meant identifying the children by age. We wanted the names above ground, plaza level. Under the sun in the day and stars at night.

Michael Arad, the memorial architect and memorial officials were against all of this. Victims with what Arad deemed as “meaningful adjacencies” may be listed together; the handful of family members and whatever other criteria he felt worthy of his design vision. All others would be listed randomly, with no relation to their fate, 9/11.

The families joined together to battle this. After years of protest we finally won the names plaza level; grouped by whom they were with; and the rescue workers identified by department. It was we who had the passengers of UA 93 who fought back against the terrorists listed together. To this day, however, none of the firefighters or police officers are identified by rank (for instance, FDNY Deputy Commissioner Bill Feehan). None of the children are identified. None of the families who perished together are identified in any way as families.

Before a final design was chosen, the families and the general public in forums held specifically to gather public opinion overwhelmingly called for the return of those authentic artifacts like the WTC steel remnants and the damaged plaza Sphere that we all remembered the attacks by. This was flat out ignored. To this day Daniels says flatly that the Sphere, the last remaining intact artifact of the WTC, has no place on the memorial plaza. Because it would remind visitors of the attacks. Google WTC images to see it on the plaza, standing alone amongst the rubble.

The mission of the 9/11 WTC and Newtown memorials would be vastly different. However, the Newtown families should be assured: special interests will try to hijack it, to deliver the message they feel the world needs to hear.

Michael Burke

2550 Independence Ave, 2G, Bronx, NY 10463 March 7, 2014

(Note: on 9/11 my brother, Capt. William F. Burke, Jr., Eng. Co. 21 gave his life.)

More stories like this: 12/14, Memorial, 9/11
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