Source: Michael Casey, Flickr; License: CC BY-SA 2.0
Source: Michael Casey, Flickr; License: CC BY-SA 2.0

In the 15 years since the September 11, 2001 attacks, many in the United States (and around the world, as well) have observed memorials set up in their towns, at their schools and churches or in their parks, police stations, and firehouses. Some have traveled to the scenes of that day’s attacks. They’ve traveled to New York City, to Ground Zero, and perhaps to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Some have traveled to the Washington D.C. area to visit the memorial at the Pentagon. Others have made the trip to rural Somerset County in Pennsylvania, where passengers put a plane down in a field in Shanksville to prevent further disaster.

These memorials often include a piece of a steel beam from one of the Twin Towers. The bigger memorials and museums also contain artifacts found among the debris: wallets, purses, shoes, mobile phones, Palm Pilots, receipts, photos, melted office phones, and so many other items that, on a daily basis, feel almost banal. Within the context of our national narrative, however, these everyday items tell the story of the worst day in our history.

As those items were recovered from Ground Zero, they were housed in a storage facility — Hangar 17 — at JFK International Airport in New York, eventually growing to a collection of 2500 artificats. Slowly, as the items have been donated out to groups and museums around the world, the collection has dwindled. It was announced earlier this summer that when the last of the items was removed, the hangar would close.

On Tuesday, July 19, the final three remnants were removed. One of those was a 40,000-pound center section of the 360-foot tall antenna that stood atop the north tower of the World Trade Center, seared into the memories of all who watched it disappear into a black cloud of smoke when the building collapsed.

The second of the final three artifacts was a 35,000-pound elevator motor from one of the towers. The final artifact was a section of concrete that had previously been in the B2 level of the WTC 6 parking garage. That structure, an archivist noted, also survived the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center.

A ceremony commemorated the event. An American flag was placed over the antenna as it left the hangar, and former New York City Police Officer Daniel Rodriguez sang “God Bless America.” Joseph W. Pfeifer, assistant chief for the New York Fire Department, spoke.

The final items are on their way to Tunnels to Towers, a gift for use in an exhibit.

A spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said that the hangar will close in the coming weeks and is expected to be demolished.

(Source: The New York Times)