Editorial: Grit and hope at Trade Center
The president had a lot to see in lower Manhattan when he visited the site of the 9/11 attack yesterday. There has been tremendous progress in rebuilding the area and infusing it with renewed life over the past decade, though it hasn't come easily.
The tragedy that claimed almost 3,000 lives left a deep scar in the national psyche and the Manhattan landscape, a scar that has made controversy over the character of the National September 11 Memorial Museum inevitable, and revitalization of the area difficult.
The memorial -- with twin reflecting pools covering the nearly one-acre footprint of each fallen tower -- opened to the public in time for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack. But construction of the museum, seven stories below the solemn Memorial Park, is stalled by a funding dispute between the private 9/11 Memorial Foundation and the Port Authority. The organizations need to work out how much more than the $710 million budgeted for the museum and memorial it will cost to complete the museum, and who will pay the overruns. They need to get the project back on track.
Even without the museum, the memorial has become a phenomenal tourist draw. More than 3 million people have trekked from all 50 states and 150 countries to visit since September. And like President Barack Obama and the first lady, they're finding a lower Manhattan on the mend.
The area south of Chambers Street was devastated by the attack. More than 14 million square feet of commercial and office space was damaged or destroyed, and 65,000 jobs were lost or relocated.
But by the end of 2011, the area was home to more companies, hotels and residents than before 9/11, according to the Alliance for Downtown New York. And in May, the new One World Trade Center, meant to replace the twin towers destroyed on 9/11, became the tallest building in the city. It is slated for completion next year.
That rebirth is impressive, but it's been slow and painful practically every step of the way.
New York City's unsuccessful bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics prompted justifiable concern that the competition for dollars and attention would handicap the effort to rebuild downtown. Maybe so, for it took $30 billion of public and private investment to spark this revival.
One World Trade underwent multiple redesigns. There were long, heated disputes over what story the museum should tell about the attack, and which artifacts elicit too much pain to be exhibited. And predictably, there are passionate differences of opinion about how much, if any, information should be included about al-Qaida, the individual terrorists who carried out the attack and their motivations.
It could hardly have been any other way. The disputes remind us just how sensitive and difficult it is to rebuild on the site of a national, but also intensely personal, tragedy.
What greeted Obama in lower Manhattan yesterday is concrete proof of the irrepressible spirit of the city, the region and the nation.