There is a hangar at JFK Airport – Hangar 17 – where, until recently, about 1200 pieces of steel and other objects from the World Trade Center site were warehoused. In the frenetic days after the attacks, these remains were selected as tokens of 9/11, so that they might be dispersed to memorials around the US, foremost among them the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero, which opens on the tenth anniversary of the event.[*] The clean-up of the site was as torturous – it lasted nine months – as the sorting at Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island was meticulous. In all, 1.8 million tons of rubble and debris were removed, of which the objects at the hangar comprise only a fraction of one per cent. Much of the tonnage consisted of steel columns and beams, and several of these, buckled and bent, were taken to the hangar – graphic evidence of the sheer force of the strike and subsequent collapse. Most of the material was pulverised, and no human trace is left of more than 40 per cent of the nearly 3000 victims. From the weaponised jets and the fallen towers to the remains at the hangar and the memorial museum at the site: it is a strange circle to contemplate, with grim ironies of its own, but it might bring a measure of closure to some.
LRB 8 September 2011 | PDF Download