August 26, 2010

IT'S EXACTLY THE SIZE OF YOUR EMOTIONS:

Ground zero’s boundaries evolve in mosque debate (AMY WESTFELDT, 08/26/2010, AP)

The evolving boundaries of ground zero have informed — or misinformed — the debate about its proximity to the planned Park51 community center. The farther away from the place, the bigger it seems.

“It’s constructed as hallowed ground when people don’t actually have a clear boundary for it or a clear sense of what’s within the boundary,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a University of Pennsylvania communications professor who studies political rhetoric. “What you have is a classic instance of people responding to a symbol whose meaning is physically divorced from the actual space.”

Ground zero for decades had conjured up images of the atomic bomb blasts in 1945. After Sept. 11, it became a journalistic shorthand that evoked war and devastation, with an Associated Press report on the day of the attacks referring to the ruins of the towers as ground zero.

It became synonymous with the World Trade Center site as the debris field left by the attacks — body parts and airplane debris on rooftops and office papers that flew to Brooklyn and New Jersey — got smaller. Since the first months after the attacks, the 16-acre site has been fenced-off and mostly covered.

It once housed the ruins of the two towers hit by hijacked jetliners, as well as four other buildings in the complex, including U.S. Customs headquarters and a Marriott hotel. Today, cranes rise high in the air along with an office tower over 30 stories high, a Sept. 11 memorial and a transit hub under construction.

Even the public and private agencies closest to the site don’t have one definition of ground zero’s boundaries. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — which owns the trade center site and is rebuilding most of it — says it is bounded by the fence, which has moved a few feet in both directions as construction has progressed.

“The fence is certainly the way we think of it,” said Steve Sigmund, Port Authority’s chief spokesman. The city uses the same boundaries, a spokesman said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 26, 2010 5:24 AM
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