Founders: Freedom Center's Role 'Vital'

Founders of a museum devoted to freedom pleaded Thursday to stay in a proposed cultural building at ground zero, saying their center would explore the core American values that were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.

The International Freedom Center (search) "will help the world understand and appreciate the sacrifices made on Sept. 11," the group said in a report to the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the rebuilding agency that is reconsidering the museum's place at the World Trade Center site.

Relatives of trade center victims have vehemently opposed the center, saying it would overshadow and take space from a separate memorial museum devoted to the 2,749 dead and would dishonor them by fostering debate about the attacks and other world events.

In its report, Freedom Center organizers said visitors would first see a display on the international response to the attacks. Each of the more than 90 nations that lost victims on Sept. 11 could contribute, the center said.

The plan was nearly identical to one presented recently for the memorial museum.

Other proposed topics for Freedom Center exhibits include the lives of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. and documents like the Magna Carta (search), the Declaration of Independence and the South African constitution.

The report said that while the World Trade Center (search) memorial and museum will focus on the 2001 terrorism, the Freedom Center "will tangibly link Sept. 11 and the lives of its victims to humanity's greatest idea: freedom."

"When children with no direct knowledge of the tragedy come to ground zero, they will be able to learn about the infamy of Sept. 11, 2001, and connect it to their own lives and times," the report said.

More than 14 family groups opposed to the museum have organized a "Take Back the Memorial" campaign and collected more than 40,000 signatures on an online petition, and more than 500 rallied against it on Sept. 10.

The families had also objected to a second museum, the Drawing Center, occupying the cultural space at ground zero, prompting that museum to seek another home.