World Trade Center Memorial going on tour

Builders of the memorial to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks plan to visit 20 U.S. cities this summer, bearing firefighters' helmets and other artifacts from the planned museum, as well as steel columns for Americans to sign, in an effort to drum up donations and national support.

After a slow start to fundraising and controversy over its cost and design, the memorial has been under construction for nine months and has raised more than $100 million (EUR 77 million) privately in the past four months, $253 million (EUR 195 million) overall.

The World Trade Center Memorial Foundation still faces opposition. Some family members upset about the way that names will be arranged have launched a Web site and are airing television ads. And beyond New York City, Americans still are unsure of what the memorial is and what it will look like, planners say.

"We think that the success of this memorial requires the participation of the American public," foundation president Joseph Daniels said.

Steel columns that will form the foundation of the "Reflecting Absence" memorial will travel with foundation officials, Sept. 11 family members, survivors and first responders and occasionally foundation chairman Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Daniels said.

The mayor, who helped spark fundraising again after taking over as chairman in October, said in a statement that he hopes a tour "will help raise awareness and encourage thousands of other people from across the country to support building what will become a lasting national tribute."

Visitors will be invited to sign the steel - which will not be visible - and make small donations, Daniels said. So far, 30,000 people have donated to the memorial; Daniels predicted hundreds of thousands of donors would be added on the tour.

There are no set cities and dates yet, although the foundation plans to include cities like Boston and San Francisco, beginning and end points of some of the hijacked jetliners that crashed on Sept. 11, 2001. The foundation was to issue a formal request on Thursday for bids from marketing firms to manage the tour. Local firehouses could be the exhibition halls for some of the touring cities, the AP reports.

"Reflecting Absence," designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker, creates two reflecting pools with cascading waterfalls just above the footprints of the destroyed twin towers. The pools would list the names of those killed in stone parapets surrounding the pools in an oak tree-filled plaza. The memorial plaza is scheduled to open in two years, while an underground, Sept. 11 museum is expected to open a year later.

The foundation hopes to raise $350 million (EUR 270 million) privately for the memorial; government agencies are pitching in more than $400 million (EUR 308 million) to build it.

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