Sites Rush To Complete September 11 Memorials

September 1, 2011       Mark Hrywna      

What was once fallow land after being strip-mined for 30 years will become the third major memorial to the September 11 attacks – and the only one that’s part of the National Park Service (NPS). The first phase of the Flight 93 National Memorial, which broke ground in November 2009, will be dedicated this month. It will allow visitors to get as close as they’ve been able to get to the crash site in nearly a decade. NPS is expecting some 15,000 to 20,000 visitors for the September 10 dedication and September 11 remembrance ceremony. As many as 300,000 visitors are expected annually visit the site. A significant portion of the memorial will be dedicated this month while another half remains to be built.

Forty passengers and crew perished when United Airlines Flight 93 went down in a field in Shanksville, Pa., on September 11, 2011. It’s believed that passengers fought back after terrorists had taken control of the plane, causing it to crash before it could get to its target, thought to be either the White House or the U.S. Capitol building.

More than three-quarters of the $62 million needed for the first phase has been raised, about $19 in private funding and $32 in public funding from the state and federal governments. Another $10 million needs to be raised. A memorial at the Pentagon was opened in 2008 and the September 11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan also will be dedicated this month while the museum is expected to open next year.

Alongside memorials to any number of wars, today there stand hundreds — perhaps thousands — of memorials to September 11 throughout the United States, in towns big and small. For the past year, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority), has been fulfilling requests for pieces of the original World Trade Center to be used in local memorials.

Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority, said the agency had fulfilled some 60 percent of the 1,118 requests at one point this past summer, with a goal of fulfilling them all by the 10th anniversary. More than 15,000 requests were received.

New York City was in charge of the cleanup operation until the end of May 2002 and the Port Authority, which owns the 16-acre site, started distributing its supply of WTC pieces last year. There are 1,200 pieces of various shapes and sizes, Coleman said, from the smallest at 6 inches to the largest at 43 feet. Requests have come from all 50 states and five foreign countries.

Compared to some other national memorials, the methodical process for the Flight 93 memorial isn’t out of the ordinary, according to King Laughlin, vice president of the Flight 93 National Memorial Campaign for the National Park Foundation. The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., took almost 60 years before it was built and the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, which was scheduled to open in this past August, took more than 40 years to complete. “Compared to that, for a national memorial the scope and scale of Flight 93, to be built in fewer than 10 years, is pretty extraordinary,” he said.

“The rebuilding effort at the World Trade Center site might be one of the most complex construction feats in American history,” said Joe Daniels, president & CEO of the September 11 Memorial and Museum, with the museum and memorial resting upon a transit hub and active PATH train, next to an active subway line, and sharing infrastructure to support surrounding office towers.

The project, aside from engineering and planned aspects, “required extraordinary focus on involving the people to whom it matters directly. The design that is now being realized is infused with all of those points of view,” Daniels said.

The memorial at the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C, broke ground in June 2006 after a design competition in 2003. It was completed in summer 2008 and dedicated on the 7th anniversary of the attacks with 16,000 people in attendance. Construction cost about $22 million and the Pentagon Memorial Fund continues to raise money for a preservation endowment and educational outreach opportunities. The fund raised $7 million in 2008, but just about one-tenth of that in 2009, according to its most recent Form 990. It still had almost $10 million in net assets.

The memorials have not been immune from criticism during planning. Any number of controversies have sprouted up over the years, starting with how to rebuild – or even whether to rebuild – design of a new facility, and how to remember those who perished. In recent years, vitriol has been directed at Park51 Community Center, an Islamic center planned two blocks north of Ground Zero at the site of a former Burlington Coat Factory store, sparking protests during the summer of 2010.

The most recent dust-up surrounds a suggested donation/admission fee of $20 to $25 floated earlier this year by museum officials. There’s no timeline on when that decision will be made but the memorial will always be free, just like Arlington National Cemetery and Pearl Harbor, and the museum will be free to victims’ family members, said Daniels. “Every avenue of fundraising is being explored to sustain the memorial museum, including public funding and a suggested donation,” Daniels said via email through a spokesman. “Whether the museum has a voluntary donation or admission fee “will depend on the financial support from other sources, including federal funding,” he said. Comparable institutions such as Gettysburg and the Oklahoma City Memorial & Museum have free memorials, he added, but accompanying museums carry admission fees.

The memorial and museum at Ground Zero is expected to cost approximately $700 million to complete and about $60 million annually to operate. The museum reached a fundraising goal of $350 million in April 2008 and is now “largely geared toward completing the museum exhibitions, startup costs, operations and ongoing maintenance,” Daniels said. Fundraising for the museum was up by almost one-third last year, from $11.7 million to $15.8 million.

The projected annual operating budget of $50 million to $60 million compared favorably to other similar institutions, said Daniels, such as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which gets most of its annual $80-million budget from the federal government.

Construction of the Flight 93 Memorial — created by an act of Congress in 2002 — has two components. The first part will preserve and protect the area, with a memorial plaza to allow visitors to get close to the actual crash site.

“It’s the first time in 10 years that anyone’s had that much access to that space,” Laughlin said.

The remaining half of the memorial will be more educational in nature, including a visitors’ center and learning center that will include exhibits that draw from oral histories, artifacts, personal tributes from a temporary memorial and media coverage. A temporary memorial site, which grew out of spontaneous visits to the site after the crash, was located on a hilltop overlooking the crash site and has had more than 1.25 million visitors since 2001. Approximately 230,000 annual visitors are expected to the permanent memorial.

“We’re at a unique position in the timeline of the project. We’ve never had an anniversary of this significance,” said Laughlin, though there was great interest and activity around the fifth anniversary. Being under construction during the past year has been “an incredible benefit,” he said, to be able to see how donations have translated into construction. Calling it a window of opportunity, Laughlin said the goal is to make as much headway toward the remaining $10 million this year.

A direct mail program has been in effect since about 2006, around the time the feature film United 93, was released. More than $2 million has been raised through direct mail, Laughlin said, and more traffic to the website – and online donations — has come as a result of a live webcam installed in August 2010.

The foundation also has tried some nontraditional means of fundraising, including text giving. A public service announcement (PSA) campaign during last year’s World Series and other events at arenas and concert venues promoted a $10 donation to Flight 93 by texting the word "memorial" to 90999. Laughlin said they got a great response to that and since September 11 is such a focal point, they might try to push the text giving program around that time as well.

The $62 million price tag covers construction and design but did not include acquisition costs. The federal government acquired some 500 of the 2,200 acres, beginning in 2006, and amid some animosity seized the remaining land necessary through eminent domain in 2009, according to published reports. The 40-acre bowl site of the crash and proposed education center is surrounded by some 700 acres for a buffer zone between the memorial site and local community. About 1,500 of the overall 2,200 acres of parkland were purchased from individual landowners.

The National Park Foundation is the fundraising partner of NPS and the Friends of Flight 93, now with about 160 members, was incorporated in 2009 to raise money. NPT

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