Daniels discusses details of 9/11 Memorial opening

After years of preparations and much patience from the country, the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum is finally ready to open the plaza to the general public next week.

On Thurs., just four days prior to the Memorial opening, 9/11 Memorial President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Daniels hosted a teleconference to answer a series of questions national and local media reporters fired off to him.

Though it might have felt like a long time, completing the 9/11 Memorial a decade after the Sept. 11 attacks was quick compared to the more-than two decades it took to build the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., according to Daniels. “Anytime we open this Memorial, for some it’ll be too soon, for others, it’ll be too late. The emotions are still so raw,” said Daniels. “Ten years feels like the right [amount of] time.”

The 9/11 Memorial plaza,  Daniels said, will be accessible starting at 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 12 to visitors that have made online reservations. General visitors will be welcomed by service staff at the intersection of Albany and Greenwich Streets and be ushered onto the plaza, where they will undergo rigorous security screening. There will be a separate entrance accessible only to victims’ family members on the corner of Albany and West Streets. “It’s place for families to come ahead of time and take their time to come [onto the plaza], and so they don’t have to mix with what we think will be large crowds,” said Daniels.

All visitors will be prohibited from bringing bags larger than the size of a thin brief case or small backpack. The procedure, Daniels assured reporters, is “pretty seamless and pretty quick.”

Before the Memorial’s grand opening, victims’ family members will partake in a four-hour-long ceremony there Sunday morning, when they will be able to see and touch their loved ones’ names inscribed on the bronze panels that surround the reflecting pools. The area surrounding Ground Zero, Daniels said, will be heavily manned by cops that day in preparation for President Obama and former President Bush’s appearances, among other elected officials.

“This is probably going to be the safest site in the U.S. [on Sunday],” assured Daniels.

Responding to Downtown residents’ wishes to participate in the main ceremony on Sunday the 11th — that day, Daniels noted, has been reserved for the kin of those who died on 9/11. “Regardless of the various really genuine [groups] that have an attachment to what happened, it’s really about the family members on that day,” he said.

Excluding the residents from Sunday’s ceremony, Daniels stressed, is “in no way to say that the Downtown community, or any stakeholder’s group, is in any way not important. We wanted to make sure we have enough capacity as possible for the families.”

And, while the memorial is poised to become a nationally and internationally recognized institution, Daniel said he’d very much like it to become a part of the fabric of Lower Manhattan.

To help accomplish that, the Memorial is hosting “community evenings”  the first Sunday of each month starting Oct. 2. Passes can be picked up at the 9/11 Memorial Preview site at 20 Vesey St.

During the teleconference, Daniels credited the Downtown community for playing a “very important role” in the memorial’s design and planning phase. “There were a group of folks that were here on 9/11, which has changed their lives,” he said. “There’s another group that made an admirable choice to come down here after 9/11. And there’s everybody down here who has to put up with construction.”

“We wanted them [all] to know that, in some sense, this is their memorial, too.”