September 1, 2004
Notes from Sam Lubell, News Editor
Over the years Hangar 17 at JFK International
Airport has housed planes for companies like Pan Am and Tower
Air. Now it houses the most important trash heap in the world:
the surviving remnants of the World Trade Center.
The Port Authority of New York and New
Jersey first began moving artifacts into the cavernous space
back in the winter of 2001, when two weeks after 9/11 the
PA, with consulting firm Voorsanger & Associates, was
asked to extract artifacts from the wreckage for an eventual
memorial. Since that time mother nature has been wreaking
havoc, depositing a new layer of rust on many of the massive
metal slabs, peeling paint off smashed fire trucks, and endangering
the lumps of concrete, shards of glass, and various other
items that mark the most tangible historic record of the events
of September 11, 2001.
"This was never meant to serve this
purpose," explains Maury Houghton, manager of the space,
who was working inside the Trade Centers the day they fell
from the sky. "We're making this up as we go along."
This "making up" includes slowly repairing the holes
in the ceiling that let rainwater in daily, and allow at least
a few birds to make the site their home. Other steps include
the erection of environmentally-controlled spaces put aside
specifically for painted items like mashed cars and highly
symbolic beams, like the last removed from the site. Curators
have gone to task injecting adhesive into the skins of some
of these pieces to ensure that the paint will stay on.
The rest of the space holds more chilling
remains of that terrible day. A walk through brings one upon
the silver turnstiles from the Trade Center PATH station;
mangled, twisted debris; large pieces of the towers' antennas,
which once stood as beacons on the very top of the world.
Many of these artifacts will likely wind up inside the Memorial
Center, the 9/11 museum below ground at Michael Arad's World
Trade Center Memorial. The amazing thing is that this massive
group of materials filling up this gargantuan space is less
than one one-hundreth of what was taken from the site.
Holding anymore would have been impossible,
For he and his partners, this job is
personal. The PA lost over 100 members, including its president,
who was dining at Windows on the World when the planes hit.