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International “Freedom” Center Scrapped at Ground Zero

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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.

Copyright © Victor Lana 2005

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His books 'A Death in Prague' (2002), 'Move' (2003), 'The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories' (2005), and 'Like a Passing Shadow' (2009) are available in print, online, and as e-books. His latest books 'If the Fates Allow: New York Christmas Stories,' 'Garden of Ghosts,' and 'Flashes in the Pan' are available exclusively on Amazon. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated on writing mostly fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as a faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with 'Blogcritics Magazine' since July 2005 and has written well over 500 articles; previously co-head sports editor, he now is a Culture and Society editor. Having traveled extensively, Victor has visited six continents and intends to get to Antarctica someday where he figures a few ideas for new stories await him.
  • They should stop trying to rush its building and actually think about what needs to be built – memorial, yes; skyscraper, yes; other?

  • Precisely right, Tan. These splinter groups and factions (who don’t seem to have any real interest in the memory of those lost) are looking at it from angles that are not conducive to getting the situation right. Before anything goes up on that site, a permanent 9/11 Memorial should rise from the ashes.

  • Eric Olsen

    very powerful and well done Victor, thanks, and I have to admit it hadn’t sunk in to me about your sister and Ground Zero. That’s a very heavy burden to bear. I’m glad this worked out the way you and yours sister wanted

  • ClubhouseCancer

    In my opinion, there could be no greater tribute to those lost than a center dedicated to the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. I’m saddened that we won’t get one on that hallowed ground.

    I find it sadder still that there seems to be little opposition to the thousands of square feet (maybe as much as a million) of retail space planned for the WTC site. Is this the message we want to show the world, that while there’s no space to document serious, important debates about our history, there’s plenty of room for Abercrombie and fucking Fitch?

    That is the real insult to the memories of those who died — that they died not for freedom, but for capitalism.

  • Club,

    If you read the part where I wrote: “there are many more battles to be fought…” you would understand that this is ongoing (the battles).

    First of all, that cannot even decide on what will occupy the “freedom” tower. And secondly, no one may even want to sign a lease.

    In my mind the whole site should be the memorial, for as I mention in the post, this is a final resting place.

    The freedom center would have been only one travesty; there are many others to be fought along the way. And they will be fought, believe me.

  • ClubhouseCancer

    And I feel that the freedom center would be a perfect tenant: A space that directly addresses, through art, the history of our great democracy. That IS a memorial.

    You never mentioned the retail component in your post, so I did not know that you’re against it (if you are, as implied by In my mind the whole site should be the memorial.

  • Club,

    I am against ANY entity placed on the trade center site that exploits that hallowed ground. This is a place for relatives and friends to come and remember. The sanctity of the space will be ruined by these things (shops, restaurants, etc.)

    Also, the problem with the “freedom” center was that it was conceived well (in the beginning it sounded great) as a place to promote freedom; however, it became a political football.

    Politics has no place at Ground Zero. Nor does Walmart.

    I reiterate that the WHOLE site (and many feel this way) should be sacrosanct: the footprints preserved, a memorial to the victims, a green space, and an area for reflection.

  • Late notice but,

    This post was chosen by the section editor as a BC pick of the week. Go HERE (link) to find out why.

    And thank you