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Sunday, 10 March, 2002, 09:04 GMT
'Healing' memorials for NY attack victims
Tribute of Light
The lights will go a mile into the night sky
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By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson in New York

Gustavo Bonevardi's father took him to the building site of the World Trade Center when he was young.

"The towers grew up behind me as I grew up," he said. "They were the backdrop to my childhood."

He remembers visits with his father to see the construction site of the World Trade Center, and he says those visits played no small part in his eventual choice of career - architecture.

When the towers fell, he and a group of architects and artists immediately wanted to do something to inspire the rescuers and help the city heal.

Their idea, the Tribute of Light, will be one of two temporary memorials dedicated on Monday on the six-month anniversary of the 11 September attacks on the US.

To inspire and heal

Mr Bonevardi's offices are not far from the site of the World Trade Center, and he like the rest of the city was in shock on the day of the attacks.

"The following day... we were desperately hoping that people would be pulled from the rubble. We hoped that they would find hundreds of people still alive," he said.

The towers grew up behind me as I grew up. They were the backdrop to my childhood

Gustavo Bonevardi, Tribute of Light team

The group wanted to erect a brilliant symbol to inspire the rescue workers and help the city heal in its darkest hour.

The hopes of finding survivors quickly dimmed, but they still pursued their project: two banks of 44 intense spotlights each 50-feet square projecting towers of light nearly a mile into the night sky.

"It was all about action. We weren't interested in doing some theoretical project," he said.

The team immediately began contacting government agencies and lighting designers as they considered available sites.

The Tribute of Light will be lit for the first time on Monday at dusk and will continue to illuminate the sky every night until 13 April.

Symbol of world peace

Also dedicated on Monday will be the Sphere, a Fritz Koenig sculpture that was on top of a granite fountain in the centre of the 5-acre World Trade Center plaza as a celebration of world peace through trade.

It was gashed through its centre by debris from the collapsing towers but remained structurally intact. It has been moved to Battery Park and will remain there until the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site begins.

Christy Ferer, the New York mayor's liaison officer for victims' families, said: "'The Sphere' was always an important meeting place and has great personal significance to those who worked in the World Trade Center."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: "The intention of the interim memorials is to provide all New Yorkers with a place to pay tribute to the memory of those we have lost in the tragic events of 11 September and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing."

Difficult choices

But debate surrounding these two temporary memorials highlights some of the difficult choices and competing interests that will have to be balanced in plans for a permanent memorial.

It is still too painful to be asking if they prefer glass or granite while remains are still being recovered

Dianne Baumert-Moyik, victims association

The Tribute of Light was once going to be called the Towers of Light, but victims' family groups complained that it memorialised buildings and not the thousands who died.

And the location for the Sphere had to be changed when local residents complained, saying their lives had already been disrupted enough first by the attacks and then by tourists wanting to visit Ground Zero.

For the families of the victims, talk of a permanent memorial is premature, said Dianne Baumert-Moyik, spokeswoman for the Widows' and Families' Victims Association. They are still focused on the recovery, she added.

"It is still too painful to be asking if they prefer glass or granite while remains are still being recovered," she said. Some families are feeling renewed grief as they consider the passing of six months.

She points out that it took six-and-a-half years for a permanent memorial to be built on the site of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Ms Baumert-Moyik said the issues surrounding the World Trade Centre site are complicated because the project will have to consider not only a memorial but also issues of redevelopment.

See also:

06 Mar 02 | Americas
Tribute in light to New York victims
19 Jan 02 | Americas
NY firefighter memorial scrapped
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