<i>They're Desecrating Sacred Ground</i> <p>By ANTHONY GARDENER AND PATRICIA REILLY</p> <p>New York Daily News</p>Saturday, September 11th, 2004 Each year on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, family members journey down to bedrock to stand on the footprints of the twin towers, the final resting place of many of those killed during the first battle of the War on Terror. If the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and Port Authority have their way, today's anniversary ceremony will be the last to include that journey. The experience of standing on these historic footprints is profound - an experience all Americans should be able to share, now and in the future. Any memorial that does not provide maximum access to the tangible remains of the footprints will fail to make an authentic connection to those who died on that day that changed America. If redevelopment leaders continue to deny the significance of these historic artifacts, we are doomed to have nothing more than an office park and two reflecting pools with the names of those killed randomly listed on a wall. Instead of sacred ground there will be infrastructure. The actual box-beam columns that braced the two towers still exist and outline the shape and size that the towers encompassed. Just like the fields of Gettysburg, these historic remnants should be preserved. The National Historic Preservation Act requires the LMDC and Port Authority to identify and mitigate against destruction of any historically significant artifacts when using federal dollars for rebuilding. But the LMDC entered into this identification process with a culture of arrogance. The New York Times reported Feb. 13 that the LMDC said reconstruction would have no adverse effect on the site's defining historical features, which the agency called intangible. The Coalition of 9/11 Families repeatedly asked the agencies to clean off the few inches of dirt that obstruct the remains of the footprints so they could be properly evaluated and preserved. To date, while construction continues nonstop, that evaluation has not been done. The coalition finally filed a lawsuit Aug. 27 to get the agencies to comply with basic historic preservation standards. Some elected officials, including Gov. Pataki, evoke the memory of our loved ones in their political speeches, and at the same time continue to fight family members on preserving the physical remains of the towers' footprints. The LMDC and Port Authority offer vague assurances they will provide appropriate access to the footprints, but a look at redevelopment plans makes it clear they are talking about whatever is left after structures such as cooling stations are in place. The majority of the site has been set aside for commercial use, with the memorial taking up less than 4 acres of the 16-acre site. The governor has it within his power to ensure that all Americans visiting the memorial will be able to make their way down to the true physical remains of each tower footprint. Incorporation of these artifacts into the memorial will provide a true legacy for those killed three years ago today. Failure to understand this will leave a lasting legacy for Pataki, a legacy of desecrating the remaining sacred ground at the World Trade Center site and destroying the historic remains of the footprints because prime Manhattan real estate was valued above American history. Gardener and Reilly are on the Coalition of 9/11 Families executive board and the LMDC Family Advisory Council. Gardener's brother Harvey and Reilly's sister Lorraine Lee were killed on 9/11.