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29 June 2008

Taking much longer than expected at Ground Zero

The Canessa Corner
By Kevin Canessa Jr.

This morning, when I woke up, my routine was no different than usual. I made a pot of coffee, and sat down at the computer to read the morning news.

As I normally do, I went to the New York Post's Web site as one of my first stops. And when I saw the headline I am about to discuss, it instantly made me sick to my stomach — literally. The headline read: "MASSIVE WTC COST OVERRUNS LOOK GRIM." The headline was enough, but the story itself was extremely painful to read. And I can only wonder what the people who directly lost someone Sept. 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center must think in reading such an incredulous, yet brilliantly presented story.

The piece, written by New York State Editor Fredric Dicker, explains that the cost of rebuilding at Ground Zero will far surpass the originally estimated costs. But worse, the story reveals what we all sort of already knew: The rebuilding project is way off schedule, and it may be many years past the originally projected 2012 completion date before everything is said and done at the site of our nation's worst-ever terrorist attack.

Here are some absolutely alarming new projections, courtesy of The Post:

• The massive transit hub, originally slated to open last year, may be scrapped completely.

• The Freedom Tower, scheduled for a 2011 opening, may be pushed back to 2013.

• Towers 2, 3, and 4, scheduled for a 2012 opening, have been pushed back "months," according to The Post.

• The 9/11-World Trade Center Museum, slated for a 2009 completion, may not be done until 2013 or 2014.

• And finally, and perhaps most disturbing, the planned Sept. 11 Memorial, scheduled for a 2009 completion, may not be ready until 2011.

On this very same Web site, I have lamented, over and over, about how Ground Zero, a place of such great horror, a place of final rest for thousands of Americans and people of many nations, is void, to this day, of a remembrance or memorial to honor those who died that day in 2001. It is difficult to even walk anywhere near Ground Zero, because a once-sacred place is now being treated solely as a pit and a construction site.

Those who died there — the innocent office workers, the cops, the firefighters, the EMTs, these heroic people who woke up one September morning in 2001 — are now an afterthought. And though we've invaded two nations since the attacks of that fateful day, nothing, nothing at all, recalls the lives that were lost. There's barely a plaque. The original names that donned the perimeter of the site exist no more, thanks to construction. The fences around the site close off this once-sacred place from the view of the people who might want to come there to remember their lost relative.

And now, June 29, 2008, we learn that in all probability, it will be 10 years after the actual attacks before a long-overdue and fitting memorial to the victims is complete and ready to accommodate visitors.

Is this even possible?

We are the United States of America. How on God's great earth could it take 10 years — 3,650 days or so — before a memorial is built? After all, it only took a few months to rebuild the Pentagon. There's a memorial there.

There's some semblance of a memorial in Shanksville, Pa.

Yet in New York, the site of the largest number of casualties, there isn't a thing to remember the victims. Nothing. Absolutely nothing at all.

A lot of the blame here, according to the Post, belongs with former New York Govs. Eliot Spitzer and, moreso, George Pataki.

Pataki did a terrible job ensuring the pace of the project moved along adequately.

How terribly sad this is.

In 2001, when America's Mayor Rudy Giuliani gave us all comfort after the attacks, always by his side was Pataki. When Pataki spoke, you felt a sense that he cared. You felt a sense he, too, was in pain over the loss of so many people.

And yet, we now know he allowed bureaucracy to slow this rebuilding project down to a snail's pace.

In my lifetime, nothing comes close to being more horrendous than the actual attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But this new news comes very close. Pataki dropped the ball here like no one else ever has for just about any reason.

And the next time you're around or near Ground Zero, stop for just a second. Take a long, hard look at the site where two majestic Towers once stood. Then ask yourself: "How is it possible that seven years after the attacks, there has barely been an inch of progress?"

Then think George Pataki. And then, continue to wonder. Because no answer, no reason, no explanation would or could ever be good enough to explain why there's still no memorial and still very little progress — and how it is possible that it will be 10 long years after the attacks before a memorial is built. Just think of how many who survived the attacks — or many who are surviving relatives — might never, ever get to see the memorial for a plethora of reasons.

For that, Pataki should always be remembered as the governor who said he would — be who never, ever did.

That, my friends, is one of the biggest disgraces in our lifetime.


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