They were promised a place to mourn their loved ones, display their photographs and educate their children and the children of strangers about exactly what was lost on 9/1 1. But today, family members of those killed have no completion date for the museum that is to be built alongside the Sept. 11 memorial at ground zero -- and many are upset.
"The memorial is open, but that's only half the tribute to those who were killed," said Patricia Reilly, who lost her sister in the attacks. "The museum is the place where they're going to tell the story about the people -- who they were, where they were, what they were doing and what happened to them that day."
Construction of the museum -- originally scheduled to open on the 11th anniversary of the attacks -- has largely ground to a halt amid a financial dispute between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site, and the foundation that controls the memorial and museum. After months of little obvious progress, some family members are increasingly worried that the powers that share control of the area are backsliding into the kind of politically driven dysfunction that once paralyzed the site.
"They shouldn't allow disagreement to get in the way," said Reilly, who especially wants the museum to be completed so she can go there to visit the thousands of fragments of human remains too damaged to identify with DNA testing. No trace of her sister, Lorraine Lee, who worked on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center's south tower, has been identified.
"We were supposed to get a contemplative area nearby where we could sit and pray, visit," she said. "I'm waiting for the remains to find their final resting place."
Work has been slowed since late last year, when the subcontractors at the site stopped getting paid. The Port Authority claimed the Sept. 11 memorial foundation owed it $300 million for infrastructure and revised project costs, while the foundation argued the port instead owed it money because of project delays. Three powerful political figures have been entangled in the dispute: The governors of New York and New Jersey control the port, while New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is the foundation's chairman.
Officials have said publicly there is no way to complete the museum by this year's anniversary of the attacks, but no formal communication has gone out to the families to inform them of the delays, some family members said.
In the meantime, personal items and mementos that families have donated to the museum are in a sort of limbo, with many wrapped and packed away in storage spaces that hold everything from damaged fire engines to children's drawings.