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Remains of the day

"Remains of the day" Continued...

Issue: "Remembering 9/11," Sept. 10, 2011

New York City Council member Daniel J. Halloran is one of few local politicians to support Tallon and others by opposing the Islamic community center project. Halloran, who like Tallon grew up Irish Catholic, also lost a cousin in the towers, New York firefighter Vincent Halloran.

Halloran blamed "political correctness" for the repeated decisions to move the project forward despite the objections of key 9/11 groups and of most Americans. "New York City is a melting pot, and I am tremendously thankful for the diversity, ethnically and religiously," he told me, "but they are using that as a shield to protect inappropriate planning."

A Republican with strong ties to the Libertarian Party, Halloran says there is little government can rightfully do now to stop the Islamic community center, but New Yorkers should remain wary of ongoing threats: "There are mosques in this city that supported those terrorists. And in my district, two terrorists were arrested just last week. It is still a real and present danger to the United States." Halloran also said he worries that the project represents for Islamic groups "a form of triumphalism" near the site of al-Qaeda's successful attacks.

At Ground Zero itself, the space that for 10 years has gaped open, frozen in tragedy and controversy from its yawning pit, is beginning to look ready for human life again. In what once were the footprints of the North and South Towers, fountains are flowing as water fills the giant reflecting pools ("reflecting absence" they are called to suggest the void left by the collapsing structures and the human toll). Swamp oaks are in the ground lining a plaza where family members of victims will gather on Sept. 11, 2011. From there for the first time they will be able to see the names of their loved ones engraved into a dark-bronze parapet along the outer edges of the pools.

Rising at the north end of the site is One World Trade Center, or the Freedom Tower, going up at the rate of about a new floor a week. By the 10th anniversary it should be at or above 80 floors of its 104 stories, on its way to becoming the tallest building in the United States and the most expensive (at $1,000 per square foot) in the world. (Watch live steaming video of the tower under construction.)

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, relatives for the first time will read the names of victims from crashes at the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa., in addition to those killed at the World Trade Center. Also a first, the names of the six victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing will be read-in all, 2,983 names. President Barack Obama will attend the ceremony, which also marks the opening of the National September 11th Memorial. The museum is due to be completed next year, but the memorial opens to the public on Sept. 12.

Vigilance about security is not over, and access to the ceremony will be limited to 9/11 families. Other ceremonies will be open to the public around the country, and in lower Manhattan New Yorkers plan a blocks-long hand-holding ceremony to begin on Sept. 10. Opponents of the Islamic center near Ground Zero, led by SIOA, have scheduled a protest at 2 p.m. on Sept. 11.

In addition to commemorating the 10th anniversary of the attacks, Americans will be remembering 9/11 for the first time since al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed. Among the documents recovered in his Pakistan hideout following the May 1 raid by U.S. Navy SEALs that ended with his death, bin Laden had a hit list whose top item was a plan to celebrate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by shooting down Air Force One with President Barack Obama aboard.

Do you worry about violence or renewed terrorism? I asked city councilman Dan Halloran. "I always worry that people will do the wrong thing, that people don't think before they act. So, yes, it's a worry. But walking up to the 10th anniversary, no one wants to talk about it."

Rosaleen Tallon and her family will commemorate 9/11 as they always do, by attending the ceremony at Ground Zero and then the Ten Firehouse where her brother worked. Her father died in 2007, but Tallon, who married just before 9/11, has three children, including a son named after her brother and one named after her father.

Despite her activism, Tallon says she won't focus on the waterfalls and the trees or the names inscribed at the memorial, things she says don't capture the destruction her family remembers. "The important thing is being where Sean's body and soul separated. And there's a spot in the sky that I look to, about in the 30s of where the North Tower stood. That has always been my imagined memorial site for him." And beyond the 10th anniversary, she said, "I will always feel it's my obligation to do anything to protect my brother's memory." That's not up to the politicians and developers, she believes: "The people have to protect the history of what happened here."

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