The planned International “Freedom” Center at Ground Zero was unceremoniously scrapped last week after growing concern over the nature of the planned exhibits and the rumored possibility that displays detrimental to the memory of those lost on this sacred ground would be allowed. Governor George Pataki, finally understanding the incendiary public outrage over this matter, administered the coup de grace so desperately awaited for by the families of 9/11 victims. The International Freedom Center would not be built at Ground Zero, and those behind the project immediately disbanded it without considering the possibility of moving it elsewhere in the city.
To explain how happy my sister (and so many other people who lost loved ones at Ground Zero on 9/11) is would be impossible right now. The way they (the people behind IFC) were handling it was suspicious in the first place. If it were indeed a “freedom” center, why allow in suspicious groups? The possibility that these groups might have exhibits that were anti-American or even (if the rumor is true, it’s ghastly) pro- 9/11 hijackers was just appalling. If the people behind the center were so legitimate, why did they run the other way once the governor made his declaration? Obviously, there have to be suspicions about the whole project and the reasons anyone ever started it.
When Senator Hillary Clinton, Rep. Peter King (R-LI), and other politicians came out in a bipartisan support of the effort opposing the IFC, that was the final straw that broke the back of the center‘s supporters. Numerous pro-9/11 victims’ families and their support groups were going to fight this travesty for as long as it took, and there would have never been an easy road for this ill-conceived concept.
So, even with this victory, there are many more battles to be fought for the groups of people who lost loved ones. New Yorkers, and all Americans, are indebted to the groups that battled the IFC every step of the way and to the politicians who put politics aside and stood up for the proper usage of the space where once the World Trade Center’s North and South Towers loomed magnificently above our beautiful city.
The next battle is preserving the footprints (the actual foundations of the two towers). The reason for this became even more apparent last week when new bone fragments were found on top of Deutsche Bank (a building across the street from Ground Zero that is destined to be demolished). This is sacred ground and in the dirt and rock there is the dust of many never recovered victims. This is their final resting place, and as such there is no choice but to designate the footprints as a burial ground, a sacred site, one preserved in perpetuity.
The joint effort of New Yorkers and other Americans to consecrate this space is crucial for many simple reasons, but more importantly because it sends a resounding message to the people who knocked down those buildings four years ago. “You are not going to divide us. We are never going to forget what you did. The people who died here are remembered now and will never be forgotten. We will show the world how we honor our dead, and in doing so magnify their memory for all time.”
In the end, doing the right thing for the memory of those lost is going to be what defines us as civilized human beings and as Americans. It’s not enough to say “Rest in peace,” without making certain those lost actually can do so. I cannot imagine that any American can expect anything less than that for area in lower Manhattan sadly known as Ground Zero.
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