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The Memorial Warriors


But will it?

Christy Ferer, Bloomberg's aide, may have been able to secure 1,000 free Star Wars tickets for the victims' families, but she cannot guarantee that the man she works for will give them nine acres -- or seven, or even five. (The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, as a point of contrast, occupies three.)

"The challenge for those of us who've lost someone," says Ferer, "is to understand the number of other stakeholders involved in the revitalization of downtown -- businesses, residents, commuters. So really, the question is, how far does our moral authority extend?"

Before that question is resolved, many family activists will doubtless continue to explore its limits. Advocacy has become their habit if not their lifework; death has a terrible way of suspending its mourners over the world that the non-grieving occupy. "I'm not very good at talking about things other than retrieving body parts and independent investigations," confesses Lemack. "And it scares me. I no longer meet people very well."

But Marian Fontana says she is trying, at least. Fontana is the introspective writer and performer who started the 9/11 Widows' and Victims' Families Association only days after her husband, Dave, jumped on a fire truck in Park Slope and never came home. For a year, Fontana has been trying to raise the city's awareness about the particular culture of the Fire Department -- how important it is for the boys to stay on a job until all are accounted for, how important it is for them to be paid enough not to need a second job. Both physically and personally, Fontana is a warm, hypnotic figure. For a full year, the media, and particularly the Times, have chronicled her ups and downs.

This past month, though, she disappeared. Fontana went to the wilderness of California for two weeks, then Martha's Vineyard for another. "Now that I've had a chance to reflect," she says, "I'd really like to try to get my old life back. The toll is monumental. The juggling act. Being the only single mom, pretty much, among the activists.

"I don't know how healthy it is to make September 11 the only date on your calendar for the rest of your life," she concludes. "It's not fair to my son, or to Dave's memory, really. I want to find the quiet place where I can start to grieve."


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