Articles, Editorials & Op Eds

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 this mission.

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 Scars
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.


Austin American-Statesman (Texas)
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 to rebuild.

"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
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 dead.


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 Sept. 11.

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 imposing vestige.

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 remain.


The New York Times
September 25, 2001
"The Big City; Beauty From Evil: Preserving Felled Tower Facade as Sculpture"
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 plaza.

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, NC)
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

…Professor Sennett 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 Facades"
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.

"It's heartbreaking 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 near it.

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, NJ)
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 icons.

No wonder there's talk about preserving them as a memorial to the thousands of human beings still entombed below.


The New York Times
October 25, 2001
"Hallowed Ground Zero; Competing Plans Hope to Shape a Trade Center Memorial"
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 building.

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," he said.


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 the Acts."

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 disappears.

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 far.


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, NJ)
December 16, 2001
"Future Memorial"
(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 future memorial.

"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
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 through trade.

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 is completed.

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.