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August 20, 2010
Ground Zero still a hole in the ground nine years later
The events of September 11, 2001 are seared into my memory. I can still see the silhouettes of my fellow Americans hurling themselves from the inferno of the twin towers. I vividly recall the gut-wrenching vision of the south tower collapsing. And then watching, helpless and hopeless, as the north tower joined its twin in a heap of rubble.
I was not there physically, but all of us who watched that terrible day unfold, witnessed the birth of Ground Zero. Arlington, Virginia and Shanksville, Pennsylvania also were battlefields that day. But, the television cameras were unblinkingly focused on Lower Manhattan. For that reason alone, Ground Zero became the de facto symbol of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
After the attack, there were solemn promises to sanctify the site and to rebuild with even taller towers. Most importantly, America vowed never to forget the innocent who were murdered and the brave who risked all to help those in need.
Nine years later, Ground Zero is still literally a hole in the ground. No memorial. No towers. No healing.
The only answer I have been able to reach is a failure of leadership.
America was built with a "can do" spirit. The very idea that thirteen isolated colonies could unify to throw off the yoke of oppression by the world's strongest nation was simply unfathomable in the 1770′s. Yet, Americans did it. The idea that the fragile American republic could survive did not fully sink in with our English brethren until we defeated them a second time in 1814.
Over the next two centuries, Americans explored and settled a vast wilderness, welcomed millions of immigrants to build an economic powerhouse, and used our manufacturing and human might to end two World Wars. These few examples don't begin to scratch the surface of American accomplishment.
How did the nation that put humanity on the Moon become unable to construct a proper memorial at Ground Zero?
Leaders of various ideologies and viewpoints have simply failed to see beyond the mundane and focus on the important. No one person is to blame. The failure is apparently systemic. The land is there, the money is available and yet the result is nothing but conflict. In comparison, many American cities have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build controversial sports stadiums in less time.
For nine years, leaders and decision-makers have argued over irrelevancies. They wasted time discussing architecture, museum exhibits, religious sensitivities, and a host of issues with no bearing on their real task.
The nation wants a fitting and dignified memorial and the fallen deserve no less. The best monuments are the simple ones - the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial, the Gateway Arch. Please, no grandiose "Museum of Planetary Peace and Understanding" filled with politically correct exhibits. The leaders of Oklahoma City did an excellent job with their memorial to the victims of the 1995 Murrah Federal Building bombing. Remember, this is about the fallen -- not utopian fantasy.
Americans also want two new towers built - even taller than the originals. This is important to us because it symbolizes that America cannot be brought down. If you can't agree on a new design, then construct two towers of the original design utilizing modern materials.
Prove America is still the place where great efforts are not only dreamed, but realized. Prove New Yorkers are the proud and resilient people we know you to be.
Act as leaders, not as politicians. Get over your power trips, edifice complexes, and political agendas - build a 9/11 memorial and rebuild the towers.
Then America can begin healing.
Kenneth Spitz is a freelance political/current events writer and blogger. The kens*ten blog address is http://kensten.wordpress.com.