Visitors Angry Over Defacement of WTC Memorial Site

Fri July 04, 2003 - National Edition

NEW YORK (AP) Underneath the names listed on memorial plaques at the World Trade Center site, visitors can view six information panels featuring illustrations and descriptions of the towers — now covered with graffiti.

”It’s nasty,’ said JoAnn Marquis, visiting with her husband from Salem, MA. ”After what happened here... it’s tacky and unpatriotic.’

The panels picture the towers in their former state and outline their history, including their construction, the 1993 bombing and their ultimate destruction on Sept. 11, 2001.

The diagrams and photos, reproduced on a fiberglass background, are now covered with writing, often scrawled in black marker.

Some of the messages are words of hope, remembrance or prayer: ”God bless you. ... We will never forget.’

Others are indecipherable or vaguely crude: ”madison arrived here... Jaz _ A.K.A Big Butt...’

”Some of the stuff is not respectful at all,’ said visitor Michael Berger, of Greensboro, NC.

”I think it’s terrible,’ agreed Jan Rodriguez of Boston. ”I think it’s somebody that just has no consideration for the people who lost their lives here.’

Many visitors to the site said they were bothered not only by the disrespectful messages, but by the writing itself. They said they considered even positive messages inappropriate.

”Graffiti is graffiti,’ said Rachael Jackson, from Las Vegas, NV. ”It angers me.’

”Write in your bathroom at school if you want to,’ said Melissa Wilder, a New Yorker viewing the site with visitors from out of town.

Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority, which handles maintenance of the viewing wall, said agency officials are aware of the graffiti and appalled by it.

”We’re very disturbed and disappointed that anyone would think of defacing anything at the World Trade Center site,’ Coleman said. ”We’re in the process of having replacement panels made that we can install there in place of the ones that have been vandalized.’

He said the new information panels will be positioned higher on the viewing wall, to make it more difficult for people to reach and draw on them.

”Hopefully it will deter people,’ Coleman said. ”We’re hoping that when we do put the new panels up there that people could have understanding and dignity.’

He said the replacement could be in place by Labor Day.

The viewing wall is to remain along most of the perimeter of the 16-acre site throughout the redevelopment, which is expected to last several years. A 13-member jury will choose a design for a permanent memorial to the victims of the 1993 and 2001 attacks this fall.

When the viewing wall was being constructed, planners considered the possibility that people might write on it, said Nancy Poderycki, a spokeswoman for the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

”That’s one of the reasons why it was a certain material and spacing between the bars was a certain way,’ she said. ”It was an effective way to make sure that people couldn’t actually write on the wall itself.’

But brazen graffiti writers left their marks on the available spaces.

”I don’t think it’s surprising,’ said Leah Tysse, visiting from San Francisco. ”Even in a sacred place.’