By Beverly Eckert
Daniel and Nina Libeskind met with the Coalition on March 17, 2003. Family members voiced concern over modifications made to Libeskind’s original design after the selection process was completed. Particular concern was expressed about the elevation of the Memorial being raised from bedrock (70′ below grade level) to only 30′ below grade level. This reduction disregards the position taken by the Coalition that many of the remains were found at bedrock and invites non-Memorial usage below the footprints, such as a bus terminal or retail mall. The Coalition expressed families’ view that the space reserved within the slurry walls, from bedrock to infinity should be reserved exclusively for Memorial purposes. Family member Lee Ielpi showed an FDNY Global Positioning Map to the Libeskinds illustrating where the largest concentration of remains were found, emphasizing a majority were found close to bedrock. Mr. Libeskind stated that his updated design preserves a slice of bedrock. Family members responded that this symbolic gesture was inadequate.
Behind the scenes, Mr. Libeskind said he was asked to raise the Memorial out of necessity to reinforce the slurry walls. Coalition members discounted this argument and suggested that the foundation and infrastructure of the Memorial and Memorial-related structures could support the slurry wall just as well. Mr. Libeskind went on to say his 1,776′ spire (inspired by the shape of the Statue of Liberty) will be built, and he was confident this imposing structure would not dominate the Memorial. Family members expressed doubt, reiterating the position that the Memorial should have been designed first and should be the focal point of the entire area, including he skyline.
The Coalition explained that while the slurry walls are structurally important, the Memorial should be the focal point of the site. The slurry wall was simply the demarcation where the greatest concentration of remains were found and where the families believed the Memorial should be built to bedrock. Mr. Libeskind did not agree and stated that the slurry walls hold significant importance and would remain a focal point. At the close of the meeting it was clear that as the process moves forward, much of Ground Zero will be sacrificed to expediency. The Coalition will continue to assert that a minimum, from bedrock to infinity, is necessary in order to respect and preserve the historical significance where so many innocent people died.