Surplus History From Ground Zero Rusts in a Hangar
By ERIC LIPTON
Published: December 19, 2003
Here are no planes behind the mammoth locked doors of Hangar 17 at Kennedy International Airport. Instead, it hides history.
This is where a 100-foot-tall by 100-foot-wide section of the lower facade of the north tower — the infamous Gothic arches — is kept, disassembled into 25 pieces weighing 80,000 pounds apiece. Laid out on the floor are the crumpled remains of the north tower antenna. Parked in one corner is an assortment of crushed fire trucks. Here rests the last column removed from ground zero, complete with the graffiti from firefighters and ironworkers who recovered victims and cleaned the site.
This is the collection of 700 or so World Trade Center relics that the finalists in the design competition for the trade center memorial have, for the most part, decided to ignore. This too is the collection, according to some prominent conservationists, that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, after going to great extremes to preserve, is now allowing to rapidly and permanently degrade because of deficiencies in temperature and humidity control.
Rust is eating away at the twisted beams. Crushed fire trucks are corroding. Flakes are falling from the last column pulled from ground zero.
Port Authority officials defend the effort to preserve these objects and encourage their use in any permanent memorial or museum. The objects, they say, are being treated with respect. "We absolutely want to preserve these objects for future generations to be able to recall what happened on Sept. 11," said Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesman.
The most critical step, Port Authority and some museum officials in New York say, is that these items were collected and placed inside a hangar.
"It showed great foresight to set many of those items aside," said Mark A. Schaming, director of exhibitions and public programs at the New York State Museum, which has its own much smaller collection of trade center objects. "They have done a great job."