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By Daniel Trotta
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nine years after the Sept. 11attacks, visible progress is finally being made towardrebuilding the World Trade Center site known as Ground Zero.
Delays from political, security and financing concerns havedominated the public image of the roughly $11 billion projectin the absence of a gleaming new skyscraper or memorial tothose who died when al Qaeda hijackers destroyed the TwinTowers.
But while rapid, visible progress has been made since thelast anniversary of the attacks, that has captured littleattention. Instead, the debate about Ground Zero has shifted toother concerns, such as the proposed Islamic cultural center tobe built two blocks from the site.
Two of four planned office towers are heading skyward. Thesignature One World Trade Center -- formerly called the FreedomTower -- is nearly 40 stories tall, on its way to 106 with anantenna that will reach 1,776 feet, making it thetallest building in the United States upon completion, expectedby 2013.
A memorial to the nearly 3,000 killed when al Qaedahijackers crashed commercial planes into the Twin Towers, thePentagon outside Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania field ison schedule to open a year from now -- on the 10th anniversarywhen originally the entire massive complex was to have beencompleted.
From elevated vantage points, the outlines of the tworeflecting pools, one marking each footprint of the two towers,can now be seen.
The project is exceedingly complex with a memorial andmuseum going in alongside four very tall buildings, atransportation hub, and a performing arts center, all beingbuilt on top of active subway and commuter rail lines.
"This is one gigantic game of pick-up sticks. Every singlething that you see around here touches another part of theproject," said Chris Ward, executive director the PortAuthority, which is building one of the towers.
"The schedules we had early on were almost emotionalschedules or political schedules. People wanted to feel likedowntown was going to get rebuilt quickly," Ward told Reutersat Ground Zero, now a teeming construction site.
The Port Authority is building One World Trade Center anddeveloper Larry Silverstein is building the other three towers,two of which will only proceed above their bases if there ismarket demand for office space.
"Some of the anxiety and anger over the plan for a mosquenear Ground Zero is fueled by the lack of completion of the9/11 memorial, and to some extent the fact that (al Qaedaleader Osama) bin Laden is still at large," said RichardShadick, director of counseling and professor of psychology atNew York's Pace University.
"A physical memorial in a sacred place where people canhonor their losses, I believe, would help quell the painexperienced right now," Shadick said.
The imam who is leading the proposed Islamic center to bebuilt near Ground Zero, Feisal Abdul Rauf, told CNNWednesday he failed to anticipate the outpouring of protestover the project.
"If I knew that this would happen, this would cause thiskind of pain, I wouldn't have done it," Rauf said.
But he rejected pressure to abandon or move the project,saying it would harm U.S. security.
"If we move from that location, the story will be that theradicals have taken over the discourse. The headlines in theMuslim world will be that Islam is under attack," Rauf said.
"If we do move, it will strengthen the argument of theradicals to recruit, their ability to recruit, and theirincreasing aggression, violence, against our country."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Port Authority of New Yorkand New Jersey, which owns the site, promise the memorial plaza-- but not the museum -- will be completed by Sept. 11, 2011.
"We understand the pressure and the importance of makingsure that when the world gathers here on the 10-yearanniversary this whole plaza will be completed," Ward said.
(Additional reporting by Joan Gralla, Michelle Nichols andDavid Alexander; Editing by Mark Egan and Vicki Allen)