September 5, 2003, Cleveland Jewish News, "Haunting display details recovery at Ground Zero," by Marilyn H. Karfeld,
A shattered fragment of a Rodin sculpture lies face down in the dirt. Although missing some limbs, the sculpture of a well-muscled human body evokes the heights to which man can soar. As one of the mangled objects recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center, it's also poignantly descriptive of the evil man has caused. Photos of the Rodin sculpture (from the collection of Cantor Fitzgerald, whose World Trade Center offices were destroyed) are part of a small but haunting traveling exhibit from the New York State Museum. "Recovery: The World Trade Center Recovery Operation at Fresh Kills" begins its national tour in Cleveland at the Western Reserve Historical Society, where it remains through October 26.
About 60 photos and 30 objects tell the story of the recovery effort at Fresh Kills, a closed landfill on Staten Island that was supposed to become a wildlife refuge and park. Instead, it was reopened to sort through the 1.8 million tons of debris from Ground Zero, the name for the destroyed World Trade Center site. The entire operation was dubbed "The City on the Hill," as heated and air-conditioned trailers, running water facilities, and food operations to feed 1,500 workers a day were installed to facilitate the massive recovery effort.
The rescue workers aimed to find human remains, personal effects and evidence of the terrorist attacks. They did recover 4,257 pieces of human beings and 54,000 personal objects, although 95% of them belonged to survivors. Not a single bit of physical evidence of the terrorists---no cells phones, box cutters or the "black boxes" from the planes that flew into the Twin Towers---were ever located.
The color photographs show cranes and bulldozers lifting clumps of debris; huge piles of wire and elevator motors; and police detectives garbed in Tyvek suits, goggles and respirators sifting through mounds of dirt gliding by on conveyor belts. There are images of a torn New York City Hall flag and pieces of the planes that crashed into the towers.
Museum goers can activate a video that tells how workers went about looking for and identifying objects and human remains.
Also on exhibit are images of bins filled with keys, ID cards, and drivers' licenses; a muddy, ripped fireman's boot; a red biohazard container; and guns and cell phones, all evidence from criminal trials stored at the U.S. Customs House, World Trade Center Tower 6. One image shows a colorful souvenir baseball, marked "Top of the World," its illuminated windows a bright yellow against the darkened walls of the tower.
In one photo, two guns have melted from the intense heat of the fires and have fused together. Pictured in the rubble, a car seat with Dr. Seuss books inside speaks of a parent who may never have returned home from work that day.
Some objects recovered from the Twin Towers are displayed on white pedestals in glass cases, like museum treasures. A NYPD holster guard. Lime green fragments of airliner fuselage. Two chunks of marble from the floors. World Trade Center pins. Elevator floor number plaques. A Democratic primary-day campaign poster touting Berman for comptroller. A large, damaged American flag.
In a glass case stands a solitary, twisted, silvery piece of aluminum facade that once sheathed the Twin Towers.
Alongside the display is the Western Reserve Historical Society's companion exhibit to commemorate the lives of the 16 former or current residents of Ohio who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The victims are described as musicians, daughters of missionaries, Cincinnati Bengals fans, golfers, and neighbors, each someone who may have sat next to you in class or marched besides you in the school band.
The New York State Museum had sole access to the 10-month recovery effort at Fresh Kills. While the objects displayed are a grim reminder of the horrific event, there are no identifiable personal articles. The items may not be associated with a specific person, but they bear witness to the calamitous loss of human life. In all, nearly 2,800 people died in the Twin Towers collapse.
Article copyright the Cleveland Jewish News.
Karfeld, Marilyn H.. "Haunting display details recovery at Ground Zero." Cleveland Jewish News. 2003. HighBeam Research. (October 3, 2010). http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-86846083.html