- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — Construction began on the World Trade Center memorial yesterday morning, while relatives of some of the victims of the September 11 attacks headed to court to fight plans to build over the Twin Towers’ historic footprints.

Trucks rolled down a ramp into the site with lumber and equipment, and about a dozen construction workers began cleaning the memorial area and installing protective wooden coverings over parts of the original foundation. Workers with pickaxes joined front-end loaders to remove gravel fill that has covered the North Tower footprint.

After six to eight weeks of preliminary work, concrete footings will be poured to support the “Reflecting Absence” memorial.

Gov. George E. Pataki last week called the event “a very important milestone,” but no groundbreaking ceremony was planned for the next several weeks. Officials said they wanted to meet a schedule to build the memorial by 2009.

Some September 11 families oppose the design, which places the memorial partly below street level, and are trying to stop the work before it is set in concrete.

The Coalition of 9/11 Families last week filed a lawsuit charging that the memorial would damage the historic footprints of the towers. Preservation groups have made similar arguments in letters to rebuilding officials.

“There is always opportunity until concrete is poured,” said Rosaleen Tallon, the sister of a firefighter killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks. Miss Tallon began sleeping outside her brother’s firehouse across from the site last week, and said the construction work yesterday wouldn’t stop her protest.

The “Reflecting Absence” design, by architect Michael Arad, was chosen two years ago out of more than 5,200 competition entries.

It marks the fallen towers near their footprints with two stone reflecting pools at street level, surrounded by trees. The water will cascade to lower levels, where visitors will find the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks and the 1993 trade center bombing.

Families have said the memorial would dishonor the dead by placing their names below street level.

Stefan Pryor, president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the agency in charge of ground zero rebuilding, said the design would “fulfill the highest standards of both safety and beauty.” He said the agency would continue to hear family members’ concerns.

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