Category Archives: 9/11

Today’s discussion – how to handle human remains from 9/11. What do you think?

Today is the third and final roundtable the Times is running in conjunction with Sunday’s article about the making of the Sept. 11 museum, and it deals with the question of how to handle the unidentified human remains when there are such deep disagreements among the families of survivors. The panel includes Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh, curator of anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and an expert on the repatriation of Native American skeletal remains, who has consulted with some of the 9/11 families who oppose the museum’s plan; Thomas Lynch, a funeral director in Milford, Mich., and the author of several essay and poetry collections, including “The Undertaking: Life Studies From the Dismal Trade;” Charles G. Wolf, whose wife, Katherine, was killed at the World Trade Center, was a member of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s Families Advisory Council and participated in the conversation series sponsored by the Sept. 11 museum during the planning stages; and Patrick White, president of Families of Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pa. His cousin, Louis J. Nacke II, died on board that day.

Join the discussion.


Ed Linenthal, Kari Watkins – head of OK. City memorial- discuss how much horror to show at 9/11 museum

In conjunction with the story I wrote about The National September 11 Memorial Museum, the Times is running online forums to discuss some of the thorniest issues. The museum’s staff and advisers have painstakingly combed through the mammoth collection of artifacts, audio recordings, videos and photographs in choosing what to display. Many items capture all too clearly the gruesome horror of that day and museum officials have been constantly forced to decide what is appropriate material for a museum exhibition and what might be too upsetting for visitors to see. We asked a group of museum professionals and trauma experts to discuss, by e-mail, how to get the message and history across accurately without being gratuitously shocking. Kari F. Watkins, director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, started off the discussion. She has dealt with the same issues in her own institution, which commemorates the bombing of a federal office building by Timothy McVeigh, a white supremacist, that killed 168 children and adults on April 19, 1995. She has also frequently consulted with the staff of the Sept. 11 museum.

Join the debate.

Join the discussion: what do we need to know about the history before 9/11?

This week the New York Times is running a series of forums on the making of the 9/11 museum, which I wrote about in Sunday’s paper. Today, David Blight, a professor of history at Yale University, Wilfred McClay, a historian at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, Anthony Gardner, the director of a museum and the  executive director of the September 11th Education Trust, and Bill Braniff, executive director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) based at the University of Maryland discuss: What do you think is essential for people to understand about the history leading up to Sept. 11?

Click on the forum and join the debate.


9/11 memorial and museum — surprised by so many commenters saying get over it already

After spending a long time working on a story, it is always interesting to see readers’ reactions, and I was surprised by the variety of opinions and emotions expressed by hundreds of  people writing in about the story on the making of the 9/11 museum at ground zero. For example:

“Scrap the expensive memorial. Build ten new schools with small museums in them, so the present and future students can see and learn;”

“think one should not mention anything about the attackers accept the blank black figure attached to the article and not even the country who did it otherwise you are doing them a favor , making them mortar and making their country more famous . That’s what they want.”

“The endless hand-wringing and conflict that has dominated every step of this museum’s creation tells a richer story than the museum itself. You want to know what kind of society we were on September 11, 2001? Look at how hard it was simply to rebuild Ground Zero and built a memorial and museum dedicated to what happened.”

“Is my tax money being used for a private memorial? This is all well and go I’d if it’s the “victims” cash. But if it’s tax money it’s spun wildly out of control.”

Read more here.


Construction on 9/11 museum halted because of fight over money

As museum officials, politicians, family members, rescuers, nearby residents, survivors, real estate and commercial interests and more argue over what the 9/11 museum should contain, the Port Authority and the memorial and museum foundation are fighting over who pays the bills. The planned Sept. 11, 2012 opening has already been delayed until next year and still there is no resolution.  Why haven’t Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York stepped in to resolve the deadlock, since they run the Port Authority?

Here’s the New York Times story

Construction Frozen in a Fight Over Financing

Published: June 2, 2012

For more than six months, work on the National September 11 Memorial Museum has been at a virtual standstill because of a multimillion-dollar dispute between the foundation creating it and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is responsible for the construction.

At issue is how much the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation owes for work on the surrounding infrastructure and for cost overruns. The Port Authority says the foundation’s share is more than $300 million. The foundation says it owes nothing; it argues that the authority’s delay in opening the memorial plaza has cost it $100 million.

Negotiations are proceeding, but late last year the authority all but stopped approving contracts for work.

The foundation is putting the total budget for the memorial and museum at $710 million, which it says it has raised through private donations and aid from the state and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

But no one expects the Port Authority to absorb the remaining bills, and powerful egos and competing agendas are complicating the negotiations: The foundation’s chairman is Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, while the Port Authority is jointly controlled by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.

All sides agree on one thing: there is no way the museum will be finished in time to open this year……

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The painful choices behing the making of the 9/11 museum

This story will be on the front page of Sunday’s New York Times but you can get an advance view now. I find the comments of readers very interesting, both in terms of their range and the depth of their emotion. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, we’ll be running roundtables on some of the thorny questions that museum officials had to deal with and the public will be able to weigh in.

At Museum on 9/11, Talking Through an Identity Crisis

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

In eight years of planning a museum at the National September 11 Memorial, every step has been muddied by contention.

Published: June 2, 2012

“It seemed self-evident at the time: A museum devoted to documenting the events of Sept. 11, 2001, would have to include photographs of the hijackers who turned four passenger jets into missiles. Then two and a half years ago, plans to use the pictures were made public.

New York City’s fire chief protested that such a display would “honor” the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center. A New York Post editorial called the idea “appalling.” Groups representing rescuers, survivors and victims’ families asked how anyone could even think of showing the faces of the men who killed their relatives, colleagues and friends.

The anger took some museum officials by surprise.

“You don’t create a museum about the Holocaust and not say that it was the Nazis who did it,” said Joseph Daniels, chief executive of the memorial and museum foundation.

Such are the exquisite sensitivities that surround every detail in the creation of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, which  is being built on land that many revere as hallowed ground. During eight years of planning, every step has been muddied with contention. There have been bitter fights over the museum’s financing, which have delayed its opening until at least next year, as well as continuing arguments over its location, seven stories below ground; which relics should be exhibited; and where unidentified human remains should rest.

Even the souvenir key chains to be sold in the gift shop have become a focus of rancor.

But nothing has been more fraught than figuring out how to tell the story.

The sunken granite pools that opened last Sept. 11 and that occupy the footprints of the fallen towers were designed as places to mourn and remember the dead. Yet nowhere on the plaza is there even a mention of the terrorist attacks that caused the destruction. The job of documenting and interpreting the history has been left to the museum, and it is an undertaking pockmarked with contradictions.

Alice Greenwald, the director of the new museum, and her team must simultaneously honor the dead and the survivors; preserve an archaeological site and its artifacts; and try to offer a comprehensible explanation of a once inconceivable occurrence. They must speak to vastly different audiences that include witnesses at the scene and around the globe, as well as children born long after the wreckage had been cleared. And many of those listening have long-simmering, deeply felt opinions about how the museum should take shape.

“Whose truth is going to be in that museum?” asked Sally Regenhard, whose son, Christian, a firefighter, died in the north tower.”

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