Ten years have not erased the hurt of 2,982 innocent Americans murdered by Islamist terrorists who were part of the al Qaeda group led by Osama Bin Laden. The emotional scars from that day will never heal for anyone who was alive to see it, the only question was how to commemorate that tragic 11th day of September in 2001 in a physical way.

What would be done with the World Trade Center (WTC) attack site once the rubble was cleared?

This coffee-table book -written by two September 11 Memorial staff members - tracks the process of reaching the decision to build a memorial at ground zero and the competition to select the design for the memorial once the future of the site was decided. The authors use large color photos and archival images to illustrate the entire story of the memorial and the terrible day that inspired it. The memorial will be dedicated Sunday, Sept. 11, and opens to the public the next day.

The site is larger than most Americans realize.

“The World Trade Center spanned approximately 16 acres of lower Manhattan real estate and included five buildings in addition to the twin towers, a public plaza, and six belowground levels. The complex hosted more than 430 companies from all over the world in nearly every industry and included a shopping mall, restaurants, a major transportation hub, and government offices,” the authors write.

It began as an idea in 1960, and was a project of the Port of New York Authority (later renamed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey). The 110-story structure would become, briefly, the tallest building in the world before being eclipsed by the Sears Tower in Chicago. The WTC began construction with excavation of the base for the towers in 1963. Dirt from the 70-foot deep “footprints” was used to create 23.5 acres of coastal land in Manhattan. The new acreage became home to Battery Park.

Five thousand workers labored on the structures which were dedicated 13 years after excavation began, in 1976. Then in a chapter the authors call “The Day the World Changed,” the towers were attacked with fully fueled jet airliners which had been hijacked from airports in New York, Washington and Newark, N.J.

The first of the planes to crash into the towers, American Airlines Flight 11, struck the north tower at 8:46 a.m. EDT, impacting floors 93 though 99. Seventeen minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into floors 77 though 85 of the south tower.

By 10:28 a.m. that day, both the towers had collapsed with a massive loss of life. By 5:20 p.m. that evening, the last of the World Trade Center buildings collapsed. What had taken 13 years to construct came down in a little more than nine hours.

One of the other two hijacked planes, American Airlines Flight 77, was deliberately crashed into the Pentagon Building in Arlington, Va. The final plane, American Airlines Flight 93, crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers, learning of the earlier attacks, attacked the hijackers in an attempt to regain control of the plane.

Thousands responded to the call for help from the WTC, and first responders were among the casualties of the towers’ collapse. “The attacks resulted in nearly 3,000 fatalities - the largest loss of life from a foreign attack on American soil. The oldest victim was 85 years old; the youngest was two and a half. Victims included citizens of 93 nations and practitioners of every major world faith. First responders perished heroically. The FDNY lost 343 members plus three retirees, the Port Authority Police Department lost 37, and the New York City Police Department lost 23 - the largest loss of emergency responders in a single event in U.S. history.”

Of those 3,000 dead, 125 were killed at the Pentagon site and 44 were killed in the Pennsylvania crash, including hijackers. Six victims from the 1993 WTC bombing are also counted.

In the ensuing days, the nation watched in disbelief as the WTC site was excavated. “Eighteen people were pulled alive from the wreckage after the towers fell on September 11, 2001. The hope of finding more survivors fueled the exhausted works and made the search all the more frantic. By the morning of September 12, an estimated 5,000 people had converged upon the pile to help in the search. At 12:30 p.m., 30-year-old Genelle Guzman was freed from the rubble after being buried for more than 26 hours. She was the last survivor found at ground zero.”

Of the dead, only 176 bodies were found “relatively intact.” Recovery workers removed 1.4 million tons of debris from the site and found 19,435 body parts. The process of identifying remains through DNA analysis continues to today, but more than 40 percent of the remains have never been identified.

Not only the victims suffered, their family members, who numbered in the thousands, also paid dearly, and those who worked in or near the twin towers and survived are thought to number as many as 50,000. How could such trauma be memorialized?

The authors acknowledge that some family members thought no memorial could ever be appropriate and wanted the site left as it was. Others wanted a memorial, but no development. It was a delicate situation, but eventually officials and their constituents reached compromises and a plan for development of the site was drawn - “a vibrant, mixed-use community in lower Manhattan. The plan emphasized the need for public involvement in the process.”

The plan came to include a transportation hub designed to resemble a bird in flight, towers ringing the site and a memorial to be located at “the very site where the attacks had taken place - the ground made sacred by tragic loss.”

The process of selecting a memorial plan took months. A jury winnowed the entries from more than 5,000 to 250; then to 25 semifinalists, then to nine. The winning design was selected in January 2004. “Reflecting Absence” incorporates the empty footprints of the two towers, cascades of water, a canopy of more than 400 oak trees and a list of the names of the victims from the WTC site, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania which will be engraved on special parapets in five rows which will stretch more than 1,500 feet. A museum located under the ground level eight-acre park will allow visitors to see the very bedrock upon which the twin towers rested.

All this was not done without controversy, and the authors are frank about the issues the memorial generated. In fact, this book is full of unvarnished history presented in text, charts and images that are still hard to look out. The content is strong, but it’s just what we need to ensure that we never forget.