By Marian Fontana
I still find it difficult to look at Ground Zero without getting emotional; however, the window in our office overlooking the site seemed like a fitting place to start our meeting with the Senator on March 6th. Our loved ones were in the forefront of Vice President Lee Ielpi’s mind as he pointed out to the Senator where his son Jonathan was found, emphasizing the painful reality that over, forty percent of the families have received nothing of their loved ones remains.
We noted to the Senator that, except for a tall fence with a few signs, the site no longer bears any trace of the tragedy that took place there over three and a half years ago. She nodded, watching twenty floors below as tour buses unloaded people from all over the country and the world hoping to take home some sense of what happened that day.
Lee explained that this was the impetus to open the Tribute Center. He pointed to the Tribute Center’s home on Liberty Street that will serve as a temporary visitors center until the permanent memorial is built. We emphasized our commitment to ensuring that the people who visit here will not only learn of the tragedy through the exhibits offered, but through the family members, residents, volunteers and rescue workers who will serve as guides. People will leave our Center with an intimate understanding of 9/11 and how this event and losing our loved ones changed our lives forever— the true story of 9/11.
The Senator offered her support and was overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the Tribute Center. She emphasized that the material included in the exhibit should be handled with the utmost reverence and respect, to which we agreed. While we noted that our group was a non-partisan organization beholden to none, we were grateful that the Senator shared our commitment to creating a place to reflect on the events of 9/11.
Now, with the Freedom Tower plans stalled and so many families disappointed with the slow process of memorialization, the importance of the Tribute Center seems evermore paramount. The family members’ input and the commitment of so many like the Senator, strengthens our resolve to create a place that will not only emphasize this tragedy, but will serve as a testament to the resilience of our nation, the city and most of all, the human spirit. We thank the Senator for taking time out of her busy schedule to offer the families, once again, her support.