World Trade Center memorial takes shape

September 11, 2011 4:03:52 AM PDT
What to build at ground zero was an incredibly emotional and highly political debate that lasted years. Build only a memorial? Build only huge office buildings? Or some sort of compromise? Compromise won.

Ground zero today bears little resemblance to the ground zero once known as the pit. The most impressive part of all this is the 9/11 memorial, which takes up half the original World Trade Center footprint.

On that day in 2001 and in the weeks after, no one talked about a memorial.

But it soon became a passion for Monica Iken Murphy. Her husband Michael, a 37-year-old bond broker, died on the 84th floor of the south tower.

"For me, what was the best thing I could do for Michael?" she said. "And the best thing I could was this. And I didn't know exactly what I was going to do at that point, but I knew I had to do something."

So Monica channeled her grief into serving on the memorial committee. But for so long, it was only a design, two pools and a grove of 400 trees.

There was secret testing of how the falling water might work. But for years, nothing got accomplished as families, politicians and designers bickered over cost. It ballooned to a billion dollars before the mayor finally stepped in and demanded, get it done by the 10th anniversary.

On March 13, 2006, things changed. With little fanfare, construction began at 8 a.m. Back then, it was 70 feet below street level. The slurry wall still visible, holding back the Hudson River.

Today, it is all so different and it's almost complete

The name of the memorial is Reflecting Absence. The two pools are the exact foot prints of the two World Trade Center towers. In a competition, the design was selected out of more than 5,000 entries worldwide. It covers half of the 160-acre site.

"I don't have any doubt we're going to get there," 9/11 Memorial president Joe Daniels said. "We're going to do it, it's not built in yet. It's going to be an absolute sprint to the finish, a safe sprint but an absolute sprint."

It is perhaps the most complicated construction site in the world, with train lines under it and ongoing skyscraper construction above. A fence will separate the expected crowds from the contruction when the memorial opens the day after 9/11.

The memorial president says he thinks everyone will enjoy seeing all the contruction ongoing around them. Tickets to the site have already sold out for six months. That makes Monica Iken Murphy proud. She worked hard on the memorial. She'll be there on 9/11, to remember Michael, whose remains were never found.

"I am just in the happiest place right now, and even if I look back at that time, I know we did it," she said. "He's home now. The best feeling, he's home."

Monica has a new family, with two little girls and a new life. But michael is always nearby.