NYPD plans 9/11 Web tribute
NEW YORK — The NYPD will honor police officers killed on Sept. 11 on Twitter and Facebook.
The department will post messages on Twitter once an hour today for each NYPD victim, with links to individual memorial Facebook pages.
The New York Post said the messages will be posted before the officers’ names are officially read at the 11th anniversary ceremony.
The police department’s official Twitter account is @NYPD-news. Each tweet will be searchable through “#neverforget.”
The NYPD launched Facebook and Twitter accounts this year.
Panetta lauds Flight 93 passengers, crew
SHANKSVILLE, Pa. — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the Flight 93 National Memorial in western Pennsylvania “is the final resting place of American patriots.”
Panetta visited the memorial Monday for the first time, paying his respects to the 40 passengers and crew members who died during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
He walked down to the wooded area where the plane crashed and met with relatives of people who were on the plane.
United Flight 93 was traveling from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco when it was hijacked by four terrorists. The 9/11 Commission said the terrorists likely wanted to crash the plane into the White House or the U.S. Capitol, but the jet went down in a field near Shanksville, Pa., after passengers fought back.
Art by children of 9/11 shown at Pentagon
WASHINGTON — Large-scale artworks created by children who lost parents or siblings in the 9/11 attacks are being shown together for the first time at the Pentagon.
The exhibit is part of the Pentagon’s tour for visitors through the end of 2012. It includes reproductions of art pieces created by more than 500 children at America’s Camp.
The summer camp was held for 10 years in Massachusetts to support victims’ families. It included children of executives, police, firefighters and others from New York, Washington and elsewhere.
Artistic Director Traci Molloy said one piece, “The Feathers of the Phoenix,” is inspired by mythology. The phoenix rises from the ashes to live again. Its feathers include images of hundreds of parents.
The artworks are part of the 9/11 Museum’s collection.
9/11 museum will feature victims’ voices
NEW YORK — On the eve of the Sept. 11 anniversary, the faces and recorded voices of those who died have been unveiled as part of the future 9/11 Memorial Museum.
Personal items donated by families of the almost 3,000 dead include a wedding ring and a loved one’s watch that stopped on the date 9/11. It was found in the rubble.
The life of each victim will be remembered in an exhibit created by the group Voices of September 11th.
Foundation President Joe Daniels said no opening date has been set for the museum on the World Trade Center site. The state and city have been wrangling over operating costs.
Frank Fetchet, who lost his son, is begging officials not to “hold the museum hostage.”
Memorial magnificent, but at a steep price
NEW YORK — With its huge reflecting pools, ringed by waterfalls and skyscrapers, and a cavernous underground museum still under construction, the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center is an awesome spectacle that moved and inspired some 4.5 million visitors in its first year.
But all that eye-welling magnificence comes with a jaw-dropping price tag. The foundation that runs the memorial estimates that once the roughly $700 million project is complete, the memorial and museum will together cost $60 million a year to operate.
The anticipated cost has bothered some critics and raised concerns even among the memorial’s allies that the budget may be unsustainable without a hefty government subsidy.
By comparison, the National Park Service budgeted $8.4 million this year to operate and maintain Gettysburg National Military Park and $3.6 million for the monument that includes the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Running Arlington National Cemetery, which has more than 14,000 graves and receives 4 million visitors a year, costs $45 million annually.
Officials at the 9/11 memorial say they face unique challenges that make comparisons to other national memorials difficult.
The foundation plans to spend at least a fifth of its operating budget, or around $12 million per year, on private security because of terrorism fears. Visitors to the memorial plaza pass through airport-like security, and armed guards patrol the grounds.
Just operating the two massive fountains that mark the spots where the twin towers once stood will cost another $4.5 million to $5 million annually, said the foundation’s spokesman, Michael Frazier.
Foundation officials didn’t respond to requests for information about other costs at the site, including the anticipated expense of running the museum, which is still unfinished and might not be anytime soon.
The museum was supposed to open this month, but construction all but ceased a year ago because of a funding squabble between the foundation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the land the memorial sits on.
Daniels said it will take at least a year for the museum to open once construction resumes, meaning the site may not be fully complete until at least 2014.
The failure to open the museum on time has thrown off the foundation’s financial planning. Officials had expected to use the museum, being built mostly with money from various government agencies, plus private donations, as its main source of revenue.
While visitors will be allowed into the above-ground portions of the memorial for free, the foundation plans to charge people to descend into the museum’s exhibition space, where they will see portraits of the nearly 3,000 victims, hear oral histories of the tragedy and view artifacts such as the staircase World Trade Center workers used to flee on 9/11.
The admission price hasn’t been set. Foundation officials say they may also charge a “suggested donation” where visitors would be allowed to enter for free but would be strongly encouraged to pay a yet-undecided amount.
But if the museum gets the 2 million visitors a year the foundation expects, a $12 fee, like the one charged at the memorial to the victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, would cover 40 percent of the operating costs. More money will be generated through fundraising and the sale of memorabilia.
In addition, the foundation and several elected officials have proposed that the American public pick up one-third of the operating costs.
So far, Congress has balked. A bill proposed by Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, that would have had the National Park Service contribute $20 million per year ran into opposition from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who noted that the federal government had already spent $300 million on the project.
A National Park Service official, William Shaddox, testified at a hearing that $20 million is more than the agency can afford, and larger than the entire annual appropriation for nearly 99 percent of the parks in its system.
Status of World Trade Center site
NEW YORK — Eleven years after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, the new multibillion-dollar World Trade Center once again dominates the lower Manhattan skyline. Hundreds of construction workers are at the 16-acre site every day, and tourists snap thousands of photos of the two towers that are nearing completion.
One World Trade Center, formerly known as the Freedom Tower, will open in 2014 on the northwest corner of the trade center site with 3 million square feet of office space. Tenants so far include magazine publisher Conde Nast and the federal government’s General Services Administration. The spire atop the 104-story building will reach the symbolic height of 1,776 feet. There will be observation decks on the 100th, 101st and 102nd floors. The building without the spire has reached its full height of 1,368 feet. It is expected to cost $3.9 billion by the time it is finished.
At ground zero, can there be a politics-free 9/11?
NEW YORK — The Sept. 11 anniversary ceremony at ground zero has been stripped of politicians this year. But can it ever be stripped of politics?
For the first time, elected officials won't speak Tuesday at an occasion that has allowed them a solemn turn in the spotlight. The change was made in the name of sidelining politics, but some have rapped it as a political move in itself.
It's a sign of the entrenched sensitivity of the politics of Sept. 11, even after a decade of commemorating the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. From the first anniversary in 2002, the date has been limned with questions about how — or even whether — to try to separate the Sept. 11 that is about personal loss from the 9/11 that reverberates through public life.
The answers are complicated for Debra Burlingame, whose brother Charles was the pilot of the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon. She feels politicians' involvement can lend gravity to the remembrances, but she empathizes with the reasons for silencing officeholders at the New York ceremony this year.
"It is the one day, out of 365 days a year, where, when we invoke the term '9/11,' we mean the people who died and the events that happened," rather than the political and cultural layers the phrase has accumulated, said Burlingame, who's on the board of the organization that announced the change in plans this year.
"So I think the idea that it's even controversial that politicians wouldn't be speaking is really rather remarkable."
Remarkable, perhaps, but a glimpse through the political prism that splits so much surrounding Sept. 11 into different lights.
Officeholders from the mayor to presidents have been heard at the New York ceremony, reading texts ranging from parts of the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address to poems by John Donne and Langston Hughes.
But in July, the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum — led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as its board chairman — announced that this year's version would include only relatives reading victims' names. Politicians still may attend.
The point, memorial President Joe Daniels said, was "honoring the victims and their families in a way free of politics" in an election year.
"You always want to change," Bloomberg said in a radio interview in July, "... and I think it'll be very moving."
Some victims' relatives and commentators praised the decision. "It is time" to extricate Sept. 11 from politics, the Boston Globe wrote in an editorial.
But others said keeping politicians off the rostrum smacked of ... politics.
The move came amid friction between the memorial foundation and the governors of New York and New Jersey over progress on the memorial museum. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, have signaled their displeasure by calling on federal officials to give the memorial a financial and technical hand.
Some victims' relatives see the no-politicians anniversary ceremony as retaliation. Both states' governors have traditionally been invited to participate.
"Banning the governors of New York and New Jersey from speaking is the ultimate political decision," said one relatives' group, led by retired Deputy Fire Chief Jim Riches. His firefighter son and namesake was killed responding to the burning World Trade Center.
To Riches, political leaders' presence shows a nation's respect and recognizes their role in passing laws that aided victims' families and people sickened by working at ground zero.
With politicians excluded, "the 9/11 families are having to turn their backs on the people who helped us so much," he said.
Spokesmen for Christie and Cuomo said the governors were fine with the memorial organizers' decision.
For former New York Gov. George Pataki, the change ends a 10-year experience that was deeply personal even as it reflected his political role. He was governor at the time of the attacks.
"As the names are read out, I just listen and have great memories of people who I knew very well who were on that list of names. It was very emotional," Pataki reflected by phone last week. Among his friends who were killed was Neil Levin, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
But Pataki supports the decision not to have government figures speak.
"It's time to take the next step, which is simply to continue to pay tribute," said Pataki, who expects he'll continue to attend.
Of course, it's difficult to remember 9/11 without remembering its impact on the nation's political narrative. As both an event and a symbol, it's "seared into the American social and political psyche, with profound consequences," says Baruch College political science professor Douglas Muzzio.
And from the start, the anniversary has been a flashpoint for accusations of playing politics with Sept. 11.
The first anniversary engendered political flaps from New York to Pikeville, Ky. New York Republicans said a Democratic television ad featuring the Gettysburg Address was aimed at upstaging Pataki's ground zero reading from the same text. In Pikeville, a judicial candidate complained when the incumbent was tapped to sing at the Sept. 11 ceremony in the town of roughly 7,000; organizers let the judge perform, anyway.
When Republicans scheduled their 2004 national convention in New York City less than two weeks before the anniversary, some victims' relatives accused the GOP of using Sept. 11 as a political backdrop. And some family members and firefighters objected that former Mayor Rudy Giuliani would bring politics into the ceremony by participating in 2007, when he was a Republican presidential candidate. Giuliani ultimately made brief remarks.
"I've tried very hard not to politicize Sept. 11, particularly around the time of 9/11, but it's almost impossible not to be criticized for politicizing it because it's a political event," Giuliani told the news website Politico last year.
Several family members sent a political message of their own as they read names at the 2005 ground zero ceremony, calling for a fitting memorial amid a fight over a then-planned "freedom museum" that some said would politicize the site. And the 2010 anniversary unfolded amid protests and counterprotests over a proposed mosque near ground zero, as well as a furor over a Florida minister's ultimately canceled plan to burn copies of the Quran.
Charles G. Wolf feels it's time to take political voices out of the anniversary this year. He thinks that the public's connection to Sept. 11 has changed, and that the ceremony should, too.
"We've gone past that deep, collective public grief," says Wolf, whose wife, Katherine, was killed at the trade center. "And the fact that the politicians will not be involved, to me, makes it more intimate, for the families.
"I think that the politicians don't need to be there, personally. ... It can be just us. That's the way that it can be now."