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First Public Forum Debates WTC Memorial - 2002-07-21

A diverse group of people from the New York and neighboring states attended the largest public forum so far Saturday on how to rebuild the World Trade Center site, destroyed in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

More than 5,000 people, seated at tables of ten, participated in the discussion. They represented a cross section of the population in the area, including relatives of almost 3,000 victims and survivors of the attacks. Business-owners and residents who live near the demolished Twin Towers called "Ground Zero" were there too.

Each table was given wireless electrical devices to vote on ideas and a professional facilitator to mediate.

"The design is abstract, that is what I have heard so far. The open space builds over the footprints."

The forum came just days after the government and civic group in charge of the rebuilding project released six preliminary plans for the future of lower Manhattan.

Organizers say that the aim is not only to assess the plans, but to receive public input on a grassroots level.

Apparently, few of the participants approved of the six plans, all of which envision a so-called "mixed use" site, incorporating an open memorial with a transportation hub and business development.

Polls revealed that the memorials were poorly received by participants, who felt the designs included too many densely packed buildings.

Rory Murray, whose husband, John Murray, was killed in the attacks, attended the discussion. She said that it is important for the families to preserve what is known as the "footprints" of the World Trade Center.

"That is our number one thing, that the footprints do remain untouched and as part of the memorial," she said. "There are many of us who have not had any remains recovered, so therefore this is our place to go and remember."

Residents, such as Barbara Lipksy, who lives near Ground Zero, said so far, the ideas fail to envision something incredible.

"I do not think any of them capture the feeling of really rebuilding a community," she said. "They seem more involved in complying with the regulations and none of them have the real spirit." Participants did agree that the project should be ambitious and must add something visually interesting to the New York skyline. But the diversity of opinion reveals the challenges that lie ahead in creating a final plan.