Like December 7, 1941, September 11, 2001 will always be “a date which will live in infamy.” This day of remembrance has been designated Patriot Day in honor of those whose lives were tragically lost in the loss of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and in a lonely field in Pennsylvania on 9/11. Sixteen years past and the images and memories of that day are still vivid. Everyone has their own story to share about”where were you when the towers went down?”
I thought it would be interesting to share another story. This one’s about the history of the steel used to build the Twin Towers and how now those beams, as well as thousands of other artifacts from Ground Zero, have become part of memorials throughout the country and the world to ensure that we, indeed, will never forget.
Earlier this year I was visiting my granddaughter in Wellington, FL, and while on a walk came upon that city’s Patriot Memorial. Only 10, my granddaughter had little understanding of what happened on 9/11, so as we walked through the site, I told her my story of that day while learning more myself about the striking piece of steel there piercing the bright blue sky.
Here, in part, is the inscription on the plaque:
“This three-story section of steel was a part of the New York city skyline — a window panel in the World Trade Center’s South Tower that spanned the 69th to 71st floors. The steel was found seven stories below the impact zone. Only 18 people at or above the impact zone survived. … This column and other World Trade Center artifacts were relocated to New Jersey for analysis and further study. Despite fire damage, engineers were able to identify this panel, known as C-46, due to a white stenciled marking dating back to the Tower’s construction. …On December 2, 2010, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey entrusted the artifact to Wellington for the creation of the Patriot Memorial, ensuring that the memory of the September 11th tragedy will never be forgotten.”
Looking again at these pictures today, I did a little more research on the steel beams from the Towers and how they’ve found their way to similar memorials around the globe. In a fascinating article on PBS.org, I learned that more than 2,600 artifacts — among them, 1,944 pieces of steel — were collected from Ground Zero. Along with the rusted pieces of twisted steel, damaged emergency vehicles, seared signs, tattered clothing and other relics were housed inside Hangar 17 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York under the purview of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, where they were kept as evidence during the investigation of the 9/11 attacks. When the government’s investigation was completed in 2010, the Port Authority initiated an artifact give-away program. Between then and August 2016, when the program ended, the items were given out to 1,585 fire and police departments, museums, municipalities and organizations to remember the nearly 3,000 people who died that day.
9/11 artifacts have been used in every type of memorial, from small to large. According to Amy Passiak, who served as an archivist and project manager for the program, the smallest pieces were about 6 inches and largest up to 36 feet in length. Many of the larger pieces were part of a “cutting program” to facilitate and meet the demand of organizations who applied to the program. There is even a 9/11 Memorial Registry you can check to see where organizations have registered their memorials. I encourage you to see if there’s one in your community.