The following is an excerpt from an essay prepared by Monica Iken for the Civic Alliance of New York that summarizes ideas and input on the memorial process:

What kind of city do we want to live in and leave as a legacy for generations to come? This question, debated for centuries among many cultures takes on new significance in the aftermath of September 11th. For the families, survivors, rescue workers and recovery personnel - engaging in the debate is necessary but exceedingly difficult.

Today, September's Mission is focusing on advocacy efforts to ensure that the decisions made in regards to the site of the former World Trade Center are made with the utmost care and consideration to the victims' families, survivors, rescue workers and recovery personnel.

The LMDC's recently published "Principles and Preliminary Blueprint for the Future of Lower Manhattan," inaccurately suggests that the families had input into a critical document that will guide future decision-making. We must do better. The families and other key stakeholders cannot be an afterthought in shaping the future of this site and our city.

What is sacred space?
The influence of spiritual leaders, philosophers, ethicists, psychologists, anthropologists and other scholars is notably absent in discussions about what to do with the former WTC site. Is it proper to build a memorial, a museum an office building or a series of structures, roads and public or recreational spaces over the souls of our loved ones, and if so, how should it be approached without violating the sacredness of the site?

How do we explain to a widow that she cannot sit near the spot where her husband's heart was found because there is a structure over it? How do we explain to the many families who recover no remains that their grief is limited to a specific area where they may not feel any connection? How do we console the souls of the dead? They are not confined to the footprints of the towers. How do we comfort the living and contribute to healing?

Visionary thinking and practical concerns cannot be separated from the need to address and incorporate emotional responses within decision-making for all aspects of the site. This is the primary planning and design challenge that has yet to be addressed in short or long-term thinking.

How much space is appropriate for the memorial?
In determining what this memorial will be, we need to ask, is it a place, is it a space, or is it a series of both? The memorial will likely be the most important and visited public space created this century. It would be shortsighted to underestimate the potential of having a large space dedicated to this purpose. New York's Central Park, Chicago's Lincoln Park and the National Mall in DC provide ample evidence of the enduring economic, social and cultural value of such places.

We need a place to honor our dead, console their souls, keep their memories alive, pay respects, reflect, recognize our heroes, comfort families and survivors, and understand the magnitude of the destruction - it's impact on our city, the nation and world. And it is vital that we heal.

Green space, museums, recreational space, libraries, parks, educational facilities, pedestrian-friendly areas and other cultural related amenities for residents, workers and tourists are underrepresented in Lower Manhattan. These places and spaces can also play a relevant role in interpreting the tragedy, and providing places of hope and healing for everyone. This is an example of what we mean when we say that the qualities of the memorial need to be defined first to determine the quantity of land needed to adequately address them.

So how can we engage the families constructively? Addressing the issues and questions raised above is a good place to start. Empowering the families and others closely affected by the tragedy not just to participate, but to lead efforts when appropriate is equally important. For example, September's Mission already has a website dedicated to the memorial effort and is in the process of updating it to meet the needs of the larger public in collecting and disseminating information related to the memorial. We ask that you join in helping with these kinds of projects rather than duplicating efforts.

Mark Twain once said, "I am all for progress, it is change I object to." In many ways, this sums up the debate going on in New York. Progress is business as usual. September 11th changed that forever. We must now ask ourselves, what kind of life-changing and reaffirming legacy can we leave for the generations to come?

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