Michael Burke's voice still cracks when he talks about how his older brother Billy, a firefighter in Manhattan, was helping two people in the World Trade Center when the towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001.
His tone darkens when he talks about the refusal of organizers overseeing the 9/11 memorial and museum to include a large spherical sculpture that survived the attacks and currently sits just south in Battery Park.
"They say the sphere is reminding us directly of the attacks," he said. "That kind of ignores the sphere's existence. It's absurd. Barring it from the site is a betrayal."
Burke received a high-profile endorsement Thursday when Pat Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, agreed that the sphere should be part of the trade center memorial. Foye spoke after Burke delivered a short statement during the public comment segment of the authority's monthly board meeting.
"The point that Mr. Burke made resonates with many people in New York and New Jersey and many people here at the Port Authority, especially given the fact that 84 members of the Port Authority family were killed on 9/11," Foye said. "This is an artifact that survived and was affected by the horrors of 9/11, and placing it on the memorial plaza, we think, is entirely appropriate."
The 25-foot-tall, 45,000-pound sculpture has sat in Battery Park for a decade but must be moved to make way for park renovations. It was used as an interim memorial in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, and was the site of a flame-lighting ceremony featuring Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and officials from about 90 nations a year after the attacks.
Burke and other victims' family members have gathered thousands of signatures in support of putting the sphere on the memorial plaza. But it wasn't included in the final design.
"They say it would infringe on the integrity of the memorial," Burke said.
The memorial features a tree-covered plaza and two massive pools that sit in the footprints of the fallen towers. The pools are ringed by waterfalls, and a parapet engraved with the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died on 9/11 and in a 1993 bombing.
A spokesman for Joseph Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, declined to comment on Thursday.
In May, the Port Authority, the agency that owns the World Trade Center site, said it was looking for a place to put the sphere and would make an announcement by mid-month, but no announcement followed.
When asked Thursday who would have the final say on where the sphere would reside, Foye would only say he hoped that "the ultimate result will be one that is an appropriate site for the sphere and one that's respectful of the views Mr. Burke spoke of at our meeting today."
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