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In The Loop
Posted at 01:21 PM ET, 05/22/2012

9/11 Memorial still short of funds


Memorial wall at the unfinished Flight 93 memorial in near Shanksville, Pa. today. (Michael S. Williamson - WASHINGTON POST)

The Pentagon Memorial to victims of the 9/11 attacks was completed nearly four years ago. The World Trade Center memorial was completed Sept. 11 of last year.

But the memorial outside Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed with the loss of 40 passengers and crew, is still millions short of meeting its $70 million proposed budget.

A gala fundraiser at the Newseum last week, with former presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton and House Speaker John Boehner delivering remarks, raised $2 million, bringing the gap down to $8 million.

So far, the National Park Foundation, which is the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, has raised about $32 million from more than 100,000 contributors.

But it appears that fewer than 10 contributions came either from the 535 members of the House and Senate there on 9/11 or from the 300 others who’ve been elected since then. That’s a 1.2 percent participation rate.

Pennsylvania, which only had one resident on the plane, has ponied up $18 million, and the federal government has committed $8 million, with an additional $4 million expected at some point from other legislation.

Problem is, tiny Shanksville (pop. 245) lacks the fundraising abilities the other memorials had. No deep-pocketed defense industry or financial industry seems willing to jump in, just an abandoned coal mine. And no family members from that area — Flight 93 was going from Newark to San Francisco.

In his remarks at the fundraiser, Clinton likened the passengers’ heroism to the 238 who died at the Alamo or to the 300 Spartans who sacrificed themselves at Thermopylae.

But those soldiers “knew when they signed up that they might die,” Clinton said. The passengers on Flight 93 “didn’t sign up for this.”

“Ten million dollars is not too much to pay” for those who “made a decision to die for us,” Clinton said.

Actually, more specifically, their deaths, according to the 9/11 Commission, saved many of the estimated 5,000 people in and around the Capitol that morning, including, let’s see, 535 members of Congress. There were countless staff, tourists and surely the ubiquitous lobbyist or two up there as well.

And yet, when the foundation invited members to join an honorary Flight 93 committee last year, we hear fewer than 25 responded.

“I’m confounded,” former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell told The Loop, by the lack of adequate federal involvement. There are rules against earmarks, he added, but this would certainly be a meritorious exception.

(We’re not even going to mention the horrific Al Qaeda propaganda photos of the Capitol in flames, the cost to replace the irreplaceable, treasured icon of our democracy.)

And $8 million? After spending $621 million for a Capitol visitors center? That $8 million doesn’t even qualify as what they call budget dust. Not even close to that $200 million affront to basic free market principles that Congress approved in February when it voted to subsidize airline passengers at small airports.

But Congress isn’t about to cut a check for the memorial, even though Boehner has been a consistent leader in efforts to raise private funds to complete the memorial.

“We remain confident that the memorial will reach its private fundraising goal,” a Boehner spokesman e-mailed us.

Might take a while, though, and a lot of scrounging.

By  |  01:21 PM ET, 05/22/2012

Tags:  World Trade Center, memorial, 9/11, Pentagon, Shanksville, Flight 93, funding, fundraiser, Clinton, Bush, Boehner, Newseum, National Park Foundation, National Park Service, contributions, Congress, Capitol, Alamo, Thermopylae, Al Qaeda, Capitol visitors center, Al Kamen, Emily Heil, In the Loop

 
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