In the days and months immediately
following 9/11, newspapers across the world published articles on
the need save the World Trade Center facades so that they could
be incorporated into a future street-level memorial. Politicians
and authorities responsible for clearing the site pledged to accomplish
Highlights from some of
the newspaper articles, editorials and letters to the editor are
presented below, in chronological order.
The Wall Street Journal
September 19, 2001
"Facing the Future at Ground Zero --- from Europe's Postwar
Come Abundance of Ways to Reshape Tragic Ruins"
by Brandon Mitchener and Dagmar Aalund, staff writers
As New York ponders the
future of the site of the demolished World Trade Center, it might
look to Europe - a continent savaged by two world wars - for ideas.
Some European cities built replicas of destroyed buildings and event
of entire neighborhoods. Others left structures entirely in ruins.
Frankfurt architect Alfred
Jacoby, who has designed synagogues in Germany since World War II,
suggests using remnants of the World Trade Center facade as a memorial,
"standing like a sculpture" and incorporating the names
of the victims. Indeed, an enduring image in photographs and videos
of what has come to be called Ground Zero is a standing facade of
one of the towers, it narrow windows giving the remnant the looks
of a ruined cathedral.
September 22, 2001
"With Vision, We Must Rebuild Ground Zero"
by Jeanne Claire van Ryzin, staff writer
And their destruction raises
discussion about what should stand in their place. Architecture
matters, and here, architects respond to the question about whether
"My thoughts have shifted
from an actual re-creation to a new interpretation of the building.
The profiles of the towers should be kept and the facade (should)
somehow reflect the historic significance of the building as well
as the event itself and also a positive expression of the future."
-- Jeffrey M. Chusid, director, historic preservation program, University
of Texas School of Architecture.
The Washington Post
September 23, 2001
by Gavriel Rosenfeld
The most excruciating loss
suffered in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center can be
measured only in human lives. But the loss of the twin towers themselves
has left a hole in New York's skyline that, like an amputated limb,
will continue to cause residents and visitors to feel a visual version
of "phantom pain" as they seek an architectural point
of orientation that is no longer there.
Already, there have been
calls for the reconstruction of the towers as a sign of American
resolve, and that wish to begin the physical recovery is perfectly
understandable. But we also have a civic and moral obligation to
commemorate the destruction. We tend to memorialize with art, as
in Oklahoma City, but in this case, the rubble itself needs to be
the memorial. The most effective way to do that is to preserve a
large section of the ruin as a visual expression of loss.
As the World Trade Center's
rubble is slowly ferried to Fresh Kills landfill on New York's Staten
Island, I am reminded of the creation of "rubble mountains"
in German cities after World War II. In Munich, for example, some
5 million cubic meters of rubble were piled in soaring heaps, covered
with earth, and gradually reclaimed by nature. These sites evolved
into hilly public parks that were often graced with memorials commemorating
the civilian victims of the war as well as the city's physical remnants,
which lie beneath.
New York will not see the
creation of rubble mountains, but it will face the same challenge
of preserving the memory of atrocity once the rubble has been removed.
I use the term "challenge" deliberately, for the natural
human response to destruction is immediate reconstruction. Americans
pride themselves on their capacity to bounce back from tragedy.
But we should resist the temptation to sweep aside all the signs
of destruction from the site in racing to redevelop it.
For while it is understandable,
the rush to reconstruction complicates the process of mourning.
Human beings invariably gravitate to the sites of tragedy -- especially
ruins -- as part of the larger process of grieving. Ruins have played
an important role in the cultural geography of Western society.
As symbols of transience, decay and death, they have long served
as evocative sites for people to attempt to come to terms with loss.
The French preserved the entire ruined village of Oradour-sur-Glane
after it was destroyed and most of its residents massacred by the
Nazis in 1944, as a symbol of French martyrdom. The British maintained
the burned-out shell of the 12th-century Coventry Cathedral and
other heavily damaged churches for similar reasons. Such resonant
sites do not lose their evocative power over time. Jews have prayed
and wept at the ruin of the Western Wall of the Second Temple ever
since its destruction by the Romans in the year 70 C.E.
By contrast, the disappearance
of authentic sites of tragedy makes coping with the past more difficult.
Immediately after the Berlin Wall began coming down in 1989, for
example, nearly all remnants of the concrete monolith were destroyed
as unpleasant reminders of an authoritarian past. A decade later,
however, many Berliners regret the near wholesale eradication of
the wall, for they now largely lack authentic sites at which to
reflect upon their recent history of division.
Unlike Europe, ruins have
seldom been a part of the American urban landscape. Nor have the
scars of foreign attack. The Revolutionary War and the War of 1812
did not leave significant marks on the landscape. And our own self-imposed
destruction during the Civil War has long been more visible at memorial
sites such as Gettysburg, where more than 1,400 monuments were erected
decades after the war, rather than at the scattered pockmarked buildings
in the South, such as the state house in Columbia, S.C., which displays
the war's destructive effects more directly. Finally, the only visible
signs of World War II's impact within America's borders lie far
from the U.S. mainland, half-hidden underwater at Pearl Harbor.
Without having suffered
large-scale urban destruction, America has generally left the task
of commemorating its tragedies to monuments and memorials, as was
shown yet again by the recent opening of the National Memorial to
the victims of the 1995 blast at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building
in Oklahoma City. This memorial, composed of a field of 168 empty
chairs symbolizing the blast's victims, is an extremely moving work
of art. Yet, like most memorials it conveys a sense of the destruction
through the distancing means of aesthetic mediation rather than
through the more direct preservation of the ruin itself.
Now, however, America has
experienced the pain of urban destruction that Europeans know all
too well. Like them, we should learn to live with ruins. In the
coming months, architects will be submitting plans to guide what
will be a reconstruction project unlike any other in American history.
The economic reasons for rebuilding such a valuable piece of Manhattan
real estate are clear. But it will not be enough to install a token
piece of sculpture or other public art to mark the horrible events
of Sept. 11.
Some may find it premature,
distasteful, perhaps even impious, to contemplate so early in our
grieving preserving portions of the ruins. But we must. For many
years to come, Americans will have a psychological need to visit
the site of the worst enemy attack in American history to reflect,
remember and mourn.
Since the attack, what remains
of the World Trade Center's sheared-off facade, sprouting up from
the ground at bizarre angles like metallic weeds, has acquired iconic
status as the symbol of the catastrophe. Before long, however, these
remnants will likely be demolished and carted away from the site
along with the hundreds of thousands of tons of rubble still waiting
to be cleared.
For now, they stand. And
as long as they stand, these haunting vestiges of the vanished towers
will be able to evoke the recent past better than any commissioned
monument will ever be able to do. I think if the European experience
of reconstruction after the Second World War teaches us anything,
it is that there is room for preserving the memory of tragedy alongside
the pursuit of recovery. It is important that the lessons of this
painful moment in history -- unclear as they may yet be -- not be
entirely overshadowed by the new works of architecture destined
to be built on the site of tragedy.
Gavriel Rosenfeld is assistant professor of history at Fairfield
University in Connecticut, and author of "Munich and Memory:
Architecture, Monuments, and the Legacy of the Third Reich"
(University of California Press).
The New York Times
September 25, 2001
"A NATION CHALLENGED: MESSAGES; From a World Lost,
Ephemeral Notes Bear Witness to the Unspeakable"
By Dan Barry
Perhaps a formal memorial
will be built someday. Perhaps the skeletal remnants of the twin
towers, rising so high from the smoky ruins, will be preserved somehow
and placed behind a marble wall inscribed with the names of the
The New York Times
September 25, 2001
"The Iconic Power of an Artifact"
By Philippe de Montebello; Director, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Even as the rubble is slowly
-- and ever so agonizingly -- being hauled from the remains of the
World Trade Center, a debate is under way about what might be built
on the ravaged site of the almost incomprehensible destruction of
But no matter what form
the reconstruction of the site takes, New York should make a commitment
now to preserving the searing fragment of ruin already so frequently
photographed and televised that it has become nearly as familiar
to us as the buildings that once stood there. This is the huge,
skeletal and jagged steel fragment of the World Trade Center and
its facade that still stubbornly stands in the midst of the utter
destruction of ground zero.
Though tilted slightly,
it somehow survived, emerging from the fire and smoke of Sept. 11
-- inexplicably durable, still pointing to the heavens and now a
fitting, realistic and moving monument to those who died there.
Already an icon, it should stand forever as a sculptural memorial,
incorporated into whatever other structures or landscapes are chosen
as fitting for this site.
There is ample precedent
for this approach. Coventry enshrined its blitzed cathedral; and
Berlin and Hiroshima, among other cities, converted ruins into monuments.
The World Trade Center catastrophe
will unquestionably challenge artists, as well it should. Great
new art may yet provide us with solace, hope and healing.
But the surviving remnant
already constitutes a solemn and authoritative statement. It will
almost surely need to be dismantled, but whatever our business and
government communities decide to build on its hallowed ground, serious
consideration should be given to preserving and reinstalling this
A relic of destruction,
it could become a testament to renewal. As a symbol of survival,
it is already, in its own way, a masterpiece -- and so it should
The New York Times
September 25, 2001
"The Big City; Beauty From Evil: Preserving Felled Tower Facade
By John Tierney
WHAT do we do with the facade
in the ruins?
That twisted aluminum remnant
of the south tower of the World Trade Center has become the most
revered shape in the city. The sightseers snapping pictures from
two blocks away can't help calling it beautiful. Even the workers
at the site, the ones eager to take it down before it collapses
on them, will occasionally stop and remark on the strange form looming
above the rubble.
Until Sept. 11, New Yorkers
did not spend much time contemplating sculpture in public spaces.
Sculptors kept trying to make statements in plazas, but the public
generally responded with either anger (they forced the removal of
Richard Serra's wall) or with indifference. Can you even remember
what sculptures used to rise from the plaza at the World Trade Center?
Now people study the charred
metal and see a Roman coliseum, a Gothic cathedral, a ship, a bird
in flight, a hand reaching to heaven. They have no interest in preserving
the old sculptures in the plaza (a bronze globe as well as works
in black granite and stainless steel), but they're already wondering
how best to preserve the facade.
Other cities have turned
wartime wreckage into memorials, and there's talk of doing that
with the tower facade. Some people have even envisioned turning
the whole site into a solemn memorial, but that's problematic, and
not merely because the real estate is so valuable. New York is too
young and vibrant for the ruins and grand monuments to the past
that are the trademarks of European capitals. People come here for
the buzz of Times Square, not for the silence of Grant's Tomb or
our other monuments to the dead.
The facade memorial could
also be juxtaposed with life if it was made part of the city --
not just a solemn tourist destination but a place where New Yorkers
work and play. The charred and twisted aluminum would look best
framed by new buildings downtown and a new public space filled with
people. What we don't need is another big empty space like the old
One reason for the facade's
current appeal is that it's surrounded by so many busy workers.
Oddly enough, the site can seem one of the more hopeful places in
the city, because here people are doing something about the attack.
They are already looking forward.
At night under the floodlights,
the spires of the facade can start to look like the masts in the
famous flash-lit photo of Endurance, the British ship that was crushed
by the Antarctic ice in 1915. The photo shows the ship sitting in
the icy rubble, its masts and rigging a ghostly white against the
black Antarctic sky.
The ship is trapped in the
ice, about to be crushed and sunk, but the picture is inspiring
because you know that Shackleton and all his men will miraculously
make it home alive. Like the masts still standing above the rubble,
they have not given up.
St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
September 26, 2001
"Tower Ruin May Live Forever As Memorial"
Compiled from Times Wires
"Workers Tuesday began
removing the last standing piece of the World Trade Center
towers - a seven-story twisted metal ruin that has come to symbolize
the terrorist attacks - and saving it for possible use in a memorial.
"We're going to preserve
as much of that wall as possible," Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said
before workers attached cables to the structure and began bringing
it to the ground. "We may be doing a memorial with some or
part of that wall."
The remnants of the south
tower - the one struck by the second jetliner and the first to collapse
- have been captured in scores of photos of ground zero since the
Sept. 11 attack on the twin 110-story towers.
News & Record (Greensboro,
September 26, 2001
"Greensboro Consultant Advising On Demolition"
by Nancy H. McLaughlin, Staff Writer
Greensboro-based D.H. Griffin Wrecking Co., one of the Southeast's
largest demolition experts, has been hired as a consultant for clearing
wreckage at the World Trade Center complex.
Monday, at Tower 2, Griffin's
team used a 500-ton crane to put workers 250-feet into the air to
hook cable to the section of building that had to be moved. Tuesday,
the work area was shut down so that workers could get the work done.
It's not the ideal way to
destroy a building, said Griffin.
GRAPHIC: Photo, CHARLIE
RIEDEL; The Associated Press; Workers survey the skeletal section
of the South Tower's facade Tuesday morning. At left, smoke rises
as a section of the South Tower is pulled down later in the day.
The last standing piece of the World Trade Center towers that has
come to symbolize the terrorist attacks will be carefully saved
for possible use in a memorial.
The New York Times
September 26, 2001
"A NATION CHALLENGED: THE SITE; Architects, Planners
and Residents Wonder How to Fill the Hole in the City"
By Kirk Johnson and Charles V. Bagli
and others say that a memorial to the victims must be the first
element on the drawing board, and that the commercial use should
then be adapted to that vision. The transformed human meaning of
the World Trade Center site, they say, has become the driving force.
"The tension is between
doing something quickly and doing it well," said Robert D.
Yaro, the executive director of the Regional Plan Association, a
nonprofit economic and land-use planning group in Manhattan. "This
space, almost regardless of what we do, will become a pilgrimage
site. It cannot be just a standard-issue commercial real estate
deal or we will not be living up to the expectations of the world."
What kind of memorial is
appropriate for the site is also likely to provoke a major civic
debate even without taking into account the real estate interests,
and here, too, specialists in urban design and architecture have
been free with their ideas.
Some have suggested leaving
part of the tower wreckage in place, the way some cities in Europe
did after World War II. A cathedral in Lubeck, Germany, for example,
was rebuilt as it had been before its destruction, but for one thing:
the cathedral bells that had crashed down from the belfry were left
where they lay, partly embedded in the ground.
Daily News (New York)
September 26, 2001
Trade Center's Shell Is Pulled Down By Cranes: Hope for the Missing
By Greg Gittrich and Dave Goldiner, staff writers
Giant cranes started pulling
down the jagged skeleton of 2 World Trade Center yesterday, removing
a potent visual symbol of the terror attacks as relatives of the
missing steeled themselves to apply today for death certificates.
Onlookers stood silent and
held back tears as a 650-ton crane armed with three steel cables
started toppling the 100-foot-tall shell of the once-mighty tower
about 5 p.m.
watching it fall," said Vera Blake, 59, of Brooklyn. "I
still don't believe this is happening in America."
The distinctive steel ribbing
of the World Trade Center started to sway like a tree in the wind
before two parts of a 25-foot section tumbled down about 5:30 p.m.
The eerie beauty of the
skeleton had made it an enduring symbol of the attacks, and many
suggested it could become the centerpiece of a memorial.
Mayor Giuliani said workers
had to pull down the shell to allow them to safely search the area
But he promised to save
the pieces for a possible monument to the victims.
"We will preserve as
much of that wall as possible," Giuliani said.
The Associated Press State
& Local Wire
September 26, 2001
"Last remnant of tower's facade being brought down; photography
banned at site"
by Verena Dobnik
Crews carefully dismantled
one of the most striking symbols of the World Trade Center disaster
Wednesday, taking apart a jagged seven-story section of steel facade
that is the last bit of the twin towers still standing.
The section had dwindled
to four stories by Wednesday morning. The work was erratic because
of the heartbreaking work being done by crews looking for the 6,347
people listed as missing in the ruins.
The facade, part of the
base of the center's southern tower, has been one of the most photographed
scenes of the devastation in lower Manhattan.
Giuliani said the remaining
chunk of facade had to be removed to make cleanup efforts safer
and easier. He reassured residents that as much of the facade as
possible would be saved in case it is wanted for a memorial.
Daily News (New York)
September 27, 2001
"WON'T GO WITHOUT A FIGHT Crews struggle to break up what's
left of Tower 2"
by Greg Gittrich and Corky Siemaszko, staff writers
Part of the jagged facade
of 2 World Trade Center was still standing defiantly last night
after construction crews tried again to bring it down.
A day after they yanked
off large sections of the scarred wall, workers stretched fortified
cables from the skeletal remains to four excavating machines.
Then, at 5 p.m., they started
up the machine and began pulling it down. But about a half hour
later, one of the cables snapped and the crew had to start over.
"The beams are still
so strong," marveled Rochelle Breton, 21, of the Bronx, who
watched the operation. "It doesn't want to fall down."
Matter of time William Harris, president and owner of Harris &
Sons Construction in Pearl River, Rockland County, said it was only
a matter of time. He said his crews also were preparing to take
down the rest of the remaining sections of Trade Center buildings.
"One thing that has
to be done is a beautiful memorial," Giuliani said, adding
that officials are planning to preserve pieces of the fallen towers.
"It will be a burial ground for a lot of people."
Ted Palatucci, 49, of Middletown,
N.J., who can see Ground Zero from his office window at 140 Broadway,
said the scene of destruction looks like "the gates of hell."
"But I do agree, they
should preserve a portion of it for the memorial," he said.
Courier-Post (Cherry Hill,
September 27, 2001
"U.S. resolve rises through dust, debris"
From the ruins of each tower,
lattice like sections of steel exoskeleton jut upward, helping the
eye navigate the gulf between what is and what was.
These see-through sections
of what were once among the world'stallest buildings are bent and
broken, but they still stand.
No wonder they've become
No wonder there's talk about
preserving them as a memorial to the thousands of human beings still
The New York Times
October 25, 2001
"Hallowed Ground Zero; Competing Plans Hope to Shape a Trade
by Dinitia Smith
How will the horror be remembered?
Since the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11 there have been
no shortage of ideas for a memorial for the thousands of people
who died there.
Should a portion of the
skeletal remains of the tower that still stand in the ruins serve
as a memorial, just as the frame of a building destroyed by the
atomic blast was left as part of the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima?
"Our concern is that
the memorial not be seen as an afterthought," said Michael
Manfredi, an architect who has become involved in an effort by architects,
artists and representatives of the business community to help shape
the process through which a memorial will be chosen.
Timing is also important
because of the sheer rapidity with which the site is being cleared,
with debris being hauled away to the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten
Island, and to locations in New Jersey where it is already being
ground into scrap. Some of the debris, Mr. Scherr [Richard Scherr
was a finalist for the Oklahoma City Memorial] said, "represents
a fabric that exists from the site that can speak to us from the
site" and could be used in a future memorial.
To ensure that objects are
preserved for this kind of use, the Port Authority of New York and
New Jersey, which owns the land, has appointed a committee to designate
objects to be salvaged. The committee consists of two architects
-- Marilyn Taylor, chairman of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, and
Bart Voorsanger, who designed the remodeling of Asia House -- and
Saul Wenegrat, an art consultant who was involved in choosing public
art for the World Trade Center.
"We think of it as
collecting objects for a museum," Mr. Voorsanger said. The
committee's members have already tagged remnants of the public art
that once stood at the World Trade Center, like Fritz Koenig's "Sphere,"
for preservation. They also want to preserve some of the impromptu
memorials created by work crews, the great cross of ruined steel
that has become an icon of the rescue effort, and some of the firetrucks,
taxicabs and passenger cars that were crushed under the weight of
tons of steel. The twisted vehicles are a shocking and direct link
to the moment of the disaster. "There is no way someone wasn't
in that car or taxi," Mr. Voorsanger said in his office, pointing
to a photograph of a car that was nearly flattened by the force
of the explosion, and which is a blood orange color.
The group has also tagged
huge pieces of construction debris for salvaging. "Look at
this," Mr. Voorsanger said, pointing to a huge steel beam bent
into a U-shape by either the force of the attack or the subsequent
inferno, as he gave a tour of Metal Management's yard in New Jersey,
where some of the debris has been hauled by barge from ground zero.
"There is no equipment strong enough to bend it like this."
The chunks of ruined steel
might be used in a memorial in the same way that museums reconstruct
ancient pottery, Mr. Voorsanger suggested, with a piece of original
material joined together with facsimiles of missing pieces to recall
The immense steel beam that
was impaled in the side of one of the buildings in the World Financial
Center could also be left in place as a memorial after the building
is restored, Mr. Voorsanger suggested, as a symbol of the sheer
force of the attack. "It was like Zeus hurling thunderbolts,"
The New York Times
November 11, 2001
"The Commemorative Beauty of Tragic Wreckage"
By Herbert Muschamp
We will probably see
no more eloquent reminder of that day than the twisted steel walls
that at present rise from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.
The "potato chip,"
some have taken to calling these ribbed fragments, because they
vaguely resemble a brand of snack food. It's human nature to domesticate
such a horrific image. "Wailing wall" is another term
in circulation. It's a polemical term, intended to limit attachment
to the wreckage and thus pave the way for its removal. The term
means, "Do we really want to dedicate this place to feeling
sorry for ourselves for all time?"
Most people just call it
the Walls. The term is powerful in its purely descriptive neutrality.
It doesn't spin the forms into a limited framework of meaning. Rather,
like the void left by the collapse of the twin towers, the Walls
invites an infinite number of projected associations. It has the
classically stoic understatement of the titles Virginia Woolf gave
her books. "The Waves." "The Years." "Between
If you believe that beauty
begins in terror, then it is not sacrilege to speak of the beauty
of the remaining walls. Nor is Gehry's architecture the only work
that has constructed an aesthetic context for them. A substantial
body of literature has been dedicated to the contemplation of ruins.
The Neoclassical tradition sprang from within the imaginations of
those who meditated on stone fragments of the ancient world. That
is why 19th-century architects went to Rome. Piranesi's engraved
visions of fantastic classicism should be required study for those
now gazing on ground zero.
More recently, the idea
of the architectural fragment has surfaced in buildings that attempt
a more integrated relationship between architecture and site, landscape
or urban context. The bending, folding, curving shapes of the World
Trade Center wreckage echo the neo-Baroque contortions of blob architecture
as practiced by Greg Lynn, Ben van Berkel and others. As a result
of my experience, the Walls remind me of Miyake's pleated clothes,
and of peaceful times.
Ultimately, however, the
Walls are walls, or, rather, the blasted skeletons of walls. It's
hard to imagine a more potent architectural symbol, particularly
as we confront a high-security future in which walls, borders, boundaries
and other varieties of exclusion and restricted access are likely
to play a prominent role. Do we know what we will be giving up to
inhabit this future? Will any boundaries be placed around efforts
to control access in the public realm, or to restrict invasion in
the private? By what measure can we count ourselves Americans if
freedom is negotiated down to a matter of consumer choices? Add
to shopping cart. Free bonus gift. This week only.
Such speculations gained
immediate substance from last week's clash between the firefighters
and the police. The conflict was as much over meaning as it was
over access. The police represented the view that the wreckage is
now cartage. To the firefighters, it is sacred space, at least until
they have fulfulled their duty to recover the victims' remains.
The discrepancy shifted the meaning of the 16-acre site from the
future to the present. How we act now assumed priority over what
we build later. A tactical maneuver -- hey, not so fast -- took
on philosophical and even spiritual meaning.
SOMETHING more important
was at stake than the construction of new towers and the design
of an "appropriate" memorial. The momentum behind site-clearing
was brought to a temporary halt. Its inevitability was questioned.
This shift did not emerge from any artificially engineered consensus
but from the conflict between two points of view. Both sides became
the front-line cultural workers the city has been awaiting. Without
the police, the conflict would not have been dramatized.
This column is not an appeal
for the permanent preservation of the Walls. My concern is that
we not overlook the meaning of events as they unfold. Clearly, the
walls have become a landmark, whether or not we choose to preserve
them. Even if the decision is made to remove them, they can no longer
be treated as junk. This is a major piece of our own place and time.
And it does seem weird that a city now thought to be so deeply protective
of its history should look the other way as a big chunk of history
The public does not have
to accept, without question, the view that the walls cannot be stabilized.
Indeed, we should regard that opinion with the deepest suspicion.
We have the right, in fact, to insist that an independent study
be made of the feasibility of preserving them. The demolition schedule,
supervised by the city's Department of Design and Construction,
should be reconsidered pending the outcome of that study.
With all the talk we are
hearing about unity of purpose and unanimity of voice, it is good
to be reminded that conflict is essential to the democratic process.
If it took a street fight to rearrange the priorities of those contemplating
the future of Lower Manhattan, then we should rejoice that cities
are places where street fighting can occur. In asserting their right
to access, the firefighters claimed it for everyone. The sky did
not fall, Broadway didn't go dark, Seventh Avenue wasn't immediately
mothballed. Though the firefighters acted emotionally, theirs was
the voice of reason -- one of the few that have been heard thus
The New York Times
November 25, 2001
"WORLD TRADE CENTER; Residents' Rights"
Letter To the Editor:
Re "The Commemorative
Beauty of Tragic Wreckage" by Herbert Muschamp Nov. 11 :
The firefighters are certainly entitled to demand that the clearing
of the wreckage at ground zero be done in a way that permits the
dignified recovery of the remains of their lost colleagues. If that
means delaying the removal of the piece of the World Trade Center
facade still standing, so be it. But to claim that the public has
the right to insist on a study of the feasibility of preserving
the facade and thereby possibly further delay the fragment's removal
is almost ludicrous. Any such right is outweighed by the right of
the residents of lower Manhattan to a quick demolition of the most
painful reminder of the tragedy that occurred at their doorstep.
The Record (Bergen County,
December 16, 2001
(from wire services)
The last standing piece
of the World Trade Center facade, a 50-foot section of the north
tower, being toppled at ground zero Saturday. At least a portion
of the section will be secured and preserved for inclusion in a
future memorial, a city official said. Iron workers had been laboring
to bring down the section for much of last week.
Newsday (New York)
December 15, 2001
"GROUND ZERO; Remains of North Tower Come Down"
By Hugo Kugiya, staff writer
For the past weeks, a 200-foot,
jagged section of the north tower's facade stood alone as a reminder
of the structure it once was part of. Remains of the south tower
long ago were cleared away. Workers have dug large pits where the
towers used to stand.
Large sections of the facade
have been set aside, city officials said, for possible use in a
"We're going to save
a 50-foot-high section of the latticework," said Richard Sheirer,
director of the city's Office of Emergency Management. "It
will be secured to be used for the future as part of a memorial."
The New York Times
January 27, 2002 Sunday
"A NATION CHALLENGED: RELICS;
From the Rubble, Artifacts of Anguish"
by Eric Lipton and James Glanz
Enveloped in white plastic
sheathing, set atop small wooden blocks, the immense steel bones
of the World Trade Center lie under the gray winter sky on a patch
of the Kennedy Airport tarmac where the jets never venture. Row
after row after row, the 40-ton steel columns that once formed the
lower facade of the north tower are now lined up like the coffins
of soldiers brought back from war.
Behind an adjacent tarpaulin-cloaked
fence topped with barbed wire is another cache. Splinters from the
soaring television antenna that marked the highest point in New
York City -- 1,732 feet into the sky -- sit on their sides, right
next to the punctured, debris-choked remains of Fritz Koenig's great
spherical bronze sculpture, the former centerpiece to the trade
center's ground-level plaza, interpreted as a symbol of world peace
And nestled against the
Koenig globe is a truly horrible object: a charred and pitted lump
of fused concrete, melted steel, carbonized furniture and less recognizable
elements, a meteorite-like mass that no human force could have forged,
but which was in fact created by the fiery demise of the towers.
There is a randomness to
the collection, but the selection is not accidental. These objects
are the raw material for museum exhibitions and a memorial that
do not yet exist. At this lonely corner of Kennedy, at two scrapyards
in New Jersey, at the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island and
at a handful of other sites in New York, these hundreds of items,
giant and small, have been collected.
With a level of discretion
bordering on secrecy, a group of architects, museum experts, city
officials and others are gathering these haunting remnants at the
behest of the city and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey,
which built and owned the trade center complex.
The attempt is to create
an archive that is already attracting interest from dozens of museums
and artists, from the Smithsonian Institution to a museum in France
to a sculptor in Greensboro, N.C. The collection is also likely
to serve as a resource for scholars, historians and scientists who
will study the disaster.
The artifacts, as the collectors
call them, will be invaluable, if only as a tactile, three-dimensional
expression of the unspeakable scale of the disaster on Sept. 11.
For the moment they serve as an ad hoc museum, though one unlike
any museum that has ever existed before.
As the collection grows,
it is provoking a host of unfamiliar questions. How can artifacts
like smashed fire trucks be decontaminated for asbestos, chemicals
or traces of the dead without destroying items of documentary value
like gloves, small tools and bits of clothing crumpled inside? How
should novel and bizarre materials like the meteorites be preserved?
Among the many people and institutions already asking for, literally,
a piece of the trade center, which should have access to the artifacts?
The curators began the physically
and intellectually exhausting work even as the firefighters were
still battling fires and digging through the mountains of rubble.
Relying on a mixture of professional experience, aesthetic judgment
and a strong dose of gut reaction, they picked out objects from
amid the 1.4 million tons of debris to save.
"Your house is burning
down, you run back in, what do you save?" said Bartholomew
Voorsanger, a Manhattan architect whose firm has coordinated the
collection effort. "You're just not trained to do that, so
you go by your instincts."
The work had to progress
swiftly, for an object not grabbed immediately could be lost forever
to the speedy cleanup, headed for burial at the landfill or for
the metal recycling scrapyards. The steel left for disposal typically
attracts bids of $80 to $100 a ton, but once a curator sets an object
aside, its value becomes incalculable. Some of the pieces, like
a section of the American Airlines jet that struck the north tower,
are in the possession of law enforcement authorities as part of
the inquiry into the attack, but the curators have requested that
the objects be preserved and turned over to them when the investigation
The task proceeded, Mr.
Voorsanger said, without any preconceptions on the emotion-charged
question of what a memorial would eventually look like, or even
if it would include any of the salvaged items, the most striking
of which is the ghastly but elegant facade of the north tower.
Like the holy relics kept
in European cathedrals or the scars of the blitz that have been
preserved in London buildings or the skeleton of a Hiroshima dome
that survived the atomic bomb, artifacts have long had the power
to stir the imaginations and the souls of visitors. The collections
at Kennedy Airport and the other sites make it clear that these
artifacts will be no exception.
"In their ruination,
as it were, their loss of perfection, they are in a sense illustrating
what has happened to them," said John Fidler, head of building
conservation and research at English Heritage, a British agency
that, like the National Park Service, maintains historic battlefields.
Discovering what elements
of the ruins had a special ability to convey the disaster, some
sort of cultural significance or simply a terrible beauty was not
a job that Mark Wagner, 33, an architect with Mr. Voorsanger's firm,
was prepared for last September.
Mr. Wagner, a Queens native,
was assigned to comb the debris field at ground zero each day for
possible artifacts. A list of essential items had been made during
an initial visit to the site by Mr. Wagner and the three members
of a committee named by the Port Authority: Mr. Voorsanger; Marilyn
J. Taylor, chairwoman of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, an architectural
firm; and Saul Wenegrat, an art consultant.
Fragments of the terrifying
but graceful facades of the towers, which remained standing like
some Gothic cathedral amid the ruins, had to be saved, the committee
immediately agreed. So did the light pole that had become an international
symbol of bravery and perseverance after a news photograph recorded
firefighters using it to raise an American flag.
Smashed fire trucks and
taxis, some so mangled and compressed that they are almost unrecognizable,
would be tagged and saved. And the artworks -- sculptures by Mr.
Koenig and Alexander Calder -- were added to the list. Other choices
relied solely on improvisation.
The first days were the
toughest. When Mr. Wagner arrived in late September with his digital
camera, ready to take snapshots of the items the team wanted to
preserve, he recalled, an angry group of firefighters demanded to
know what he was up to.
"What the hell are
you doing?" one of the firefighters asked Mr. Wagner. "This
is a grave site. Our brothers are out there."
Unsure what might happen
next, Mr. Wagner waited for a pause and then tried politely to explain
the mission: "We have to start thinking about an archive, a
memorial. Pieces of this have to be saved for future generations
to understand what has taken place."
And with that, they understood.
Soon enough, everyone was a curator, with even the scrapyard workers
calling up to report strange objects they had found.
In the middle of October,
the collection work shifted when a representative of the Museum
of the City of New York called and notified Mr. Voorsanger of its
interest in preserving an entirely different aspect of the trade
center complex: pieces that would evoke the fabric of the life that
had flourished there.
Bicycles still locked to
a metal rack. Directional signs for the subways and trade center
towers. Computer keyboards, pages from wall calendars, a file cabinet
and dozens of other items that are valuable by virtue of their connection
to cultural history, like Judy Garland's ruby-red "Wizard of
Oz" slippers at the Smithsonian.
All of these artifacts have
been found and saved. "It was what people saw in the complex
as they went about their everyday business," said Dr. Sarah
M. Henry, vice president for programs at the Museum of the City
of New York.
Ground zero is not the only
place where the collectors are doing their work.
Along the docks at Metal
Management Northeast in Port Newark, N.J., a scrapyard with a crystal-clear
view of the broken Manhattan skyline, a seemingly endless, temple-pounding
boom rises in a crescendo and echoes as mound after mound of trade
center debris is dumped into the belly of a waiting freighter.
Like the catcher in the
rye, Andrea Wiedemann, 32, an intern architect at Mr. Voorsanger's
firm, has been stationed to retrieve trade center artifacts before
they are lost forever.
She wanders that yard as
barges and trucks filled with steel columns and beams, giant elevator
motors, cylindrical air-conditioning condensers the size of Volkswagens,
and heavy steel supports from the trade center basement -- green
and red painted concrete, the color codes for parking still clinging
to them -- arrive here and are unloaded.
The air smells and tastes
of the demise of the trade center. An acrid smoke from cutting torches
mixes with the soapy, metallic flavor of rusty dust shaken loose
from the trade center steel.
After months on the job,
it never becomes routine, Ms. Wiedemann said. "Every time you
see the pieces out of context, it just really shakes you up,"
she said. "It was all over the yard."
Some of the pieces that
she and others have picked out are tagged and set aside in a ragged
pile on one side of the muddy yard. Two examples of the 36-foot-long,
three-column sections that fitted together to make the upper portions
of the twin tower facades illustrate the incomprehensible forces
at work. One section is arrow-straight and undamaged while the other
is bent backward like a hairpin, the steel so compromised that it
flutters in a slight breeze.
Another item, a flanged
column made of four-inch-thick steel, is curved like a rainbow.
And there is another meteorite. Though pitted and fused, the exterior
of this one is less completely melted, revealing traces of the steel
decking of four separate floors spaced in layer-cake fashion over
perhaps two feet.
This stone is the compressed
remains of those four floors. With hallucinatory vividness, bits
of furniture springs, steel mesh and reinforcing bars from the concrete
floors, angle iron and what could be crumpled pieces of desks or
filing cabinets seem to be growing from the meteorite.
"God help anybody that
was around that or near it or above it," Warren Jennings, a
general manager at the scrapyard, said as a small group of people
looked on solemnly.
It was too late for anyone
to help, of course. But not too late for people to capture the objects
that will immortalize that sentiment.