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 WTC PATH PATH Tube Station To Open Sunday

 By Joshua Robin Staff Writer November 22, 2003, 1:08 PM EST

There won't be any signs alerting people to the history of the train.

But the PATH train that will make its way Sunday morning into the seared heart of lower Manhattan played a pivotal role two years ago: It was the last train to leave the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, carrying to safety a dozen fleeing people before the first tower collapsed.

Sunday, the car will return to Ground Zero, and with it inaugurate what state officials call a significant milestone in the rebuilding: the restoration of PATH service to the World Trade Center.

"It's going to be a very emotional event," said Gov. George Pataki, who will ride the train with New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey. Pataki said he had visited the station earlier this week. "You can taste and feel the air the way it was on Sept. 11."

Some 67,000 riders boarded the PATH at the World Trade Center every day before two hijacked jets annihilated the Twin Towers.

Although that number might not soon return, officials hope the restored service will breathe life into the area as the trains arrive at a newly completed station -- a $323 million temporary structure at the east side of the World Trade Center.

"When the temporary World Trade Center PATH Station opens on Nov. 23, it will become the first public space to open within," Anthony R. Coscia cq , Port Authority chairman, said in a prepared statement.

The temporary station will connect to the E subway line, but will lack amenities such as heating that are expected at the $2 billion permanent transit hub slated for completion around 2006.

Sunday's event, expected to draw hundreds of people, will coincide with the opening of another important structure: a walkway across West Street, to replace a bridge destroyed Sept. 11.

Not everyone is pleased with the changes. Lee Ielpi, who lost his firefighter son Jonathan in the attacks, said officials are backpedaling on a pledge to leave as intact as possible the Twin Towers footprints.

Plans call for an additional track to be built under both footprints, to handle trains bypassed during the construction of the permanent station.

It's not clear whether the Port Authority will keep the track permanently, but Ielpi and others are enraged at what they consider a trespass.

"It will severely, severely compromise the South Tower," Ielpi said.

But officials say while they are building for future crowds, they are balancing plans with preserving the memories of those lost -- many of whom were killed rescuing others.

"We had to make sure that we remembered what happened there and also rebuild," Pataki said in an interview Friday. "As we look with confidence to the future, we're never going to forget."

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