Nothing seems to be easy at the World Trade Center site. That goes double for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. President Obama and the families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are finally dedicating the museum, after 12 long years of planning and construction. The museum opening to the public on May 21 is quite an accomplishment, especially considering the original opening was planned for Sept. 11, 2012.
Progress was hampered by many things, but, most publicly, a prolonged fight between the museum foundation and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey over financial and other differences regarding the substantially subgrade museum. The dispute halted museum construction in December of 2011 for almost a year, cast a shadow on the two entities leading the project, and was to have delayed the September 2012 opening by about a year. Then, in October of 2012, Superstorm Sandy flooded the museum and most of the WTC site.

Even before those troubles, it was not an easy project. In recent times, the builders have not been allowed to talk to the press about the challenges. Before the gag order, the building team made no bones about how difficult it was for the 180,000-sq-ft museum, under the memorial park, to share infrastructure with some of the other port authority projects at the 16-acre WTC site. All the different stakeholders, ordinarily competitors, were forced to cooperate. It was not something they were accustomed to doing.

Now the building team can talk about the project. One interesting aspect is construction sustainability. Lend Lease, which served as the museum's construction manager, says all diesel-powered construction equipment used was retrofitted with diesel particulate filters and used ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel and all impact equipment was fitted with mufflers or noise blankets. Concrete wash-off water was treated before it was discharged to the storm sewer, protecting neighboring water bodies from possible adverse effects from lime.

Three quarters of construction and demolition waste was diverted from landfills, says Lend Lease. The project filtered, dewatered and pumped surface water on site for construction purposes, such as fugitive dust control and wheel washing.

On this day of local and national looking back, I can't help look back on my coverage of the WTC, beginning in 1985 with the original 7 WTC and continuing through two terrorist attacks and the rebuilding after each one. I especially recall my tour of the raw museum space (in the summer of 2011). On that day, the cool temperature within the cavernous concrete museum offered relief from the oppressive July heat above grade.

I looked at and photographed the major exhibits already in place: the remains of a long staircase called the survivor stair; part of the original "bathtub" wall; and one of the columns, called a trident, from the original twin towers (The photos were included in the ENR World Trade Center timeline in the Aug. 15, 2011 issue.)

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The relief from the heat was welcome but ever-so-fleeting. The exhibits stirred the usual intense emotions and the many not-so-good memories.

I especially recalled the times, after the 1993 bombing and the 2001 attacks, that I likely stood in the very same "space" under totally different circumstances. The first time I walked up to the western bathtub wall was in 1993, just days after the truck bomb had ripped a giant multi-level hole in the floor diaphragms that braced the walls that held back the waters of the Hudson River. At that time, there was still concern that the foundation wall might collapse under pressure from the river water. That would have turned tragedy into calamity.

Luckily, I did not learn of that concern until after I came out of the "crater," totally subdued by the scent of evil in that, the first, Ground Zero. Little did anyone suspect, on that Monday tour in 1993, that the terrorists, having failed to bring down the towers, would one day return with bigger weapons and make the tragic events of 1993 pale by comparison. 

The tour of the museum cavern during the summer 2011 was intense. Not even finished and the space had already achieved its mission of recollection and remembrance.The intensity of the space for me, on that day in 2011, gives only a hint of what the finished museum visit must be like for the families and loved ones of the 9/11 victims.