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Controversy Surrounding the Reconstruction of the World Trade Center

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The sprawling mess of flesh and steel recombinant that was created on the morning of September 11, 2001 left thousands dead. The scene of Ground Zero would go on to haunt survivors and the general public alike. The terrorist attacks which were wrought that day destroyed a landmark, a large and populated piece of a city, and most tragically the lives of thousands of innocent people. Yet with death there is also rebirth, and this example is no different. However, over the past years we have witnessed the controversy and chaos which has surrounded the precarious nature of how and what to rebuild over the incredibly sacred land that now makes up Ground Zero.

Attempting to cover every aspect of the rebuild would require much more in-depth and analysis than a small essay such as this, yet one of the most contended aspects of the rebuild has been the issue of how to memorialize those lost in the attacks. While the construction of the new tower is a very important issue to the city, the memorial itself seems to be much visceral to the public, especially to those who experience direct loss. This of course brings up the highly debatable question of what a memorial should strive to be. Should it serve to remind us of a greater cause or ideal, or should it simply be there to remind us of the sacrifice and heroism that took place? Who should have the final say, the people or the politicians? This paper will explore these issues, and tell the story of how the common man took on the greater political establishment in order to change the way history would be remembered.

This story begins with a group known as the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC). This organization, founded by Governor George Pataki, was formed after the September 11th attacks with the purpose of planning how to rebuild the area of lower Manhattan. This joint city-state corporation eventually gave birth to what would grow to be considered the most controversial aspect of the rebuild process, the IFC (International Freedom Center). The IFC first saw life in early 2004 when it was selected to serve as a “cultural site” to stand near the future memorial known as Reflecting Absence, a design also selected and endorsed by the LMDC (Wikipedia). Unlike the memorial, the IFC was to be the primary area featured in what would eventually become the World Trade Center Memorial Cultural Complex. The mission statement chosen by the organization’s new executive Tom Bernstein was that of “taking people on a journey through the history of freedom”. (Bernstein) This unassuming aphorism would go on to fuel the impending dispute of whose definition of freedom was being represented by this project, and why it belonged on what was considered inviolable territory.

As the plans and blueprints of the IFC began to become publicized, more and more people began to question just what this “memorial” would accomplish by resting upon Ground Zero. The ultimate goal of the promoters and members of the IFC board was to emphasize both the triumphs and the glaring failures of liberty throughout history. Visitors to the center would be given a tour of the many different examples of “man’s inhumanity to man”. The tutorial would include topics like the Native American genocide, lynching in the Jim Crow south, Nazi war crimes, etc. (Doe) While all very important topics to learn, many in the community began to question why these various subjects would be covered in what was meant to be an area of solemn reflection. As commentator Debra Burlingame put it in her article, “The Great Ground Zero Heist”, “the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation would have erected a building whose only connection to September 11th is a strained, intellectual one.” (Burlingame)

In the coming decade people will be coming to the Ground Zero site for remembrance of the heroes that gave their lives, what the IFC was offering them was a lecture on freedom and a disjointed museum of liberty with no clear connection to what happened on a day that reshaped the lives of so many. Instead of a meaningful tribute, they aimed at presenting the history of various examples of genocide and oppression. The project was snowballing more and more into the clutches of political bias. The LMDC was allowing Bernstein to take what was to be the gateway cultural center to the memorial, which the public undoubtedly expected to be about 9/11, and turn it into a platform for the personal politics and sense of history shared by a very politically skewed board of directors.

The outrage grew as it became clear how much space was to be allotted towards the building that intended on teaching us how we should feel about our liberty. Startlingly, the LMDC approved a plan granting the IFC 300,000 square feet. To put this into perspective, the actual Memorial Center (the

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