9/11 anniversary: Families reflect on a year of progress at Ground Zero

For many families of victims, the pain of their loss has not gone away.

The city has come a long way since 9/11. The construction of One World Trade Center is nearly complete. Lower Manhattan has rebounded. The memorial has opened after years of political bickering. But for families who lost loved ones, the pain is something that will never change.

“People will always have a special place for 9/11 in their hearts,” said Debra Burlingame, whose brother Charles, was the pilot of American Airlines flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.

Joe Daniels, the president of the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum, acknowledged that it’s a hard task to raise the city’s and nation’s spirits on such a solemn day but said that many relatives and people have taken solace knowing that New York continues to bounce back.

Daniels said the museum will complement the moments of silence and reading of the names because the families will be able to go deeper into the histories of victims.

“We talk about an event that has national and global implications but for the families it is a personal tragedy,” he said.

Burlingame, who sits on the museum’s board, said she and other families are looking forward to One World Trade Center’s opening since everyone has watched it grow over the years.

“I’m really proud of it,” she said of the western hemisphere’s tallest building. “It’s the biggest thumb in the eye to al-Qaida.”

Some victim’s relatives, however, say they aren’t comforted by the museum. Sally Regenhard of Yonkers, who lost her son Christian, a rookie firefighter who worked in Red Hook, said she and her family will be boycotting the Ground Zero services for the first time.

Regenhard, whose son’s remains haven’t been identified, said she was disgusted that the memorial charged a $24 fee to offset the costs and also had a gift shop.

“We are fighting this barbaric scheme,” she said.

Daniels said the concerns by those family members are unwarranted because the museum’s exhibits tell the stories of the 2,977 victims.

“Universally, every single person I’ve encountered has embraced the content and how it’s been presented,” he said.

Daniels said he hopes Thursday’s ceremony will continue to keep the significance of the day alive and inspire people  to make the world a better place.

“The most important thing is to keep our eyes wide open. This is a history that continues to play out,” he said.

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