There was the potential for the 9/11 Memorial plaza to be devastated by Hurricane Irene, as one of the site’s marquee features is a grove of hundreds of newly planted Swamp White Oak trees and thousands of granite cobblestones. As the good news from the tropical storm keeps trickling in—no fatalities from the storm, less damage than expected, a city of now fully stocked liquor cabinets—it turns out the memorial has come through remarkably unscathed.
“It looks good,” Joseph Daniels, president and C.E.O. of the memorial foundation, told The Observer in a phone interview this afternoon, after he toured the eight-acre plaza. “The memorial site is intact. All the trees are still upright and intact, including the one we were most concerned about, the Survivor Tree.”
There were a few loose limbs and some leaves, but Mr. Daniels credits the preparation work with minimizing any problems, which, as The Observer reported Friday, included securing and removing equipment and pruning back trees to make them less susceptible to the wind.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg echoed these comments during his afternoon press conference. “It’ll be back to work tomorrow, I hope” at the World Trade Center site, the mayor said. “The memorial continues to be on schedule for the opening on 9/11.”
In a way, the site is in better shape for its grand opening in exactly two weeks than it would have been had their been no hurricane. “The plaza looks great,” Mr. Daniels said. “All the preparations we did in preparing for the storm actually helped prepare us for the opening, like removing excess equipment and temporary fencing that had been surrounding the pools.”
There was some flooding below ground, in the museum, “a little more water and some drips,” as Mr. Daniels put it, but “all the precious artifacts were safe, and we’re quite happy about that.”
The only real problem, which Mr. Daniels expects to have addressed by Sept. 11, is some flooding at 90 West Street. The nearby building will serve as a security checkpoint and logistics center, but pumps are already in place, prepared to remove the water.
Mr. Daniels said the memorial, and the city, had gotten lucky. “With two weeks left, it could have been a lot worse,” he said. “With the preparation the construction teams did, we’re real happy with that. We’re in great shape, actually.”