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Freedom Center rejoins fight to stay at Ground Zero
BY MONTY PHAN
September 23, 2005
A 49-page report released Thursday on a controversial plan to house a freedom museum at Ground Zero detailed how the International Freedom Center intends to address the Sept. 11 attacks as part of a wider historical context, again drawing the ire of victims' families, who say such exhibits don't belong there.
The report, which the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. had asked to be submitted by Thursday, said the Freedom Center would have exhibits dedicated to "the international outpouring of solidarity and sympathy for the victims of Sept. 11"; a tribute to "great documents of freedom," including the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta; and "The Freedom Walk," a concourse "offering a physical and emotional journey through the history of freedom as a global narrative of hope."
By choosing to examine Sept. 11 as an "essential element" of "the story of freedom," the plan has disappointed and angered many victims' families, who believe that the center is unrelated to the terror attacks. Tom Bernstein, the museum's chairman, defended the plan, saying that by telling the story of Sept. 11 "in the context of greater history," it would "honor those who were lost."
"The alternative is a very narrow one, in our view, and doesn't stand the test of time," Bernstein said.
The museum will present the plan at a meeting of the LMDC Families Advisory Council next week and at two public meetings. The LMDC then will use the feedback to determine whether it will keep the museum at the site.
Anthony Gardner, who heads the Coalition of 9/11 Families, said he doesn't object to the museum's message, but instead its location on hallowed ground. He and other family groups had hoped the museum would agree to relocate, just as the Drawing Center -- another museum that was selected to be housed at Ground Zero but that families had objected to -- already has said it would do.
"We maintain that it doesn't belong on the site," Gardner, who lost his brother Harvey Gardner in the attacks, said of the Freedom Center. "It doesn't belong on sacred ground. Politics do not belong on this sacred place."
But Bernstein said the museum never considered moving, especially because so many people had given time to "try to do the right thing" with the museum.
Poll: Freedom Center debate
Freedom Center backers say it will help people understand 9/11 sacrifices. Victims’ families say controversy surrounding the museum will dishonor the dead. Do you think it belongs at the WTC site?
Yes, it will be a learning tool. (31 responses)
No, the site should be used as a memorial only. (1548 responses)
Not sure. (13 responses)
(At the time of this post)