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Historic Last Column Returns to World Trade Center Site for Permanent Installation
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Column was first distinguished when firefighters marked it with spray-paint to indicate that missing members of their unit might be located in that area. Photo: EFE/Andrés Lamartino.

NEW YORK, NY.- The historic 'Last Column,‛ the final steel column to be removed from the World Trade Center site, returned to the site this morning for permanent installation in the 9/11 Memorial Museum. The massive ‚Last Column‛ was covered in tributes from members of the construction trades, rescue personnel, and family members before the column was removed from the site, marking the end of the nine-month recovery efforts in May 2002. The return of the ‚Last Column‛ marks a major milestone in the construction of the Memorial and Museum as it is the first artifact moved from conservation to the Museum.

"The return of the ‘Last Column’ marks a historic moment in the building of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum," said Joe Daniels, 9/11 Memorial President. "This major artifact with its many markings and inscriptions commemorates the sacrifice of so many on 9/11. It will stand proud in the Museum as a symbol of the spirit of unity and dedication that brought people together at ground zero. The Column embodies the best of what we saw in ourselves in the aftermath of the attacks and the incredible capacity of people to come together during the most difficult of times."

"The return of the Last Column is a powerful symbol of the progress we've made in building the Memorial and Museum since we assumed lead construction responsibilities at the World Trade Center site three years ago," said Port Authority of NY & NJ Chairman Anthony Coscia.

"As an agency that felt first-hand the devastation of 9/11, it is with great pride that we are bringing back the Last Column of the old World Trade Center as we erect the first columns of the new World Trade Center. This is ultimately a sign of rebirth," said Port Authority of NY & NJ Executive Director Christopher Ward.

Early this morning, the Column was removed from preservation at Hangar 17 at JFK airport to the World Trade Center site. There, construction workers spent four hours positioning a 121,000 pound capacity crane to transfer the Column to bedrock of the site. The Column, boxed and wrapped to protect the artifact from the elements, was then lowered approximately 70 feet, and placed upright on a new footing.

The "Last Column" is approximately 36 feet tall, measures 52.5 inches by 22.5 inches at the base, and weighs approximately 58 tons. It is the surviving fragment of a steel rectangular box beam that once stood vertically from bedrock to the roof of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Column was first distinguished when firefighters marked it with spray-paint to indicate that missing members of their unit might be located in that area. In the spring of 2002, towards the end of the recovery operation at the World Trade Center site, the Column was selected to be the symbolic ‚Last Column‛ of steel to be removed at New York City’s public closing ceremony. As the Column was excavated, workers involved in the recovery effort, along with victims’ family members and members of the uniformed services placed memorial posters, photographs, notes and Mass cards on the Column. The Column was formally removed from the site on May 30, 2002, in a ceremony attended by thousands of people, including numerous elected officials.

"The Museum will present monumental artifacts such as the 'Last Column‛ and it is exciting that these massive items are beginning to be transferred to their permanent location," 9/11 Memorial Museum Director Alice M. Greenwald said. "Every artifact has a story, and this is certainly true of the pieces recovered from the World Trade Center site after 9/11, now stored at Hangar 17. In the case of the Last Column, the stories are multifold, embracing the experiences of recovery workers and rescue personnel, ironworkers and grappler operators, the families, friends, and co-workers of those who were killed, and countless others. Quite literally, it bears the mark of all who gave so generously of their time and spirit in the collective response to provide aid and assistance in the face of unspeakable destruction and unfathomable loss."

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has made extensive efforts to preserve the 'Last Column.‛ The Column was stored in a climate-controlled room at Hangar 17, monitored by and maintained by the Art Preservation Services team. Beginning in 2004, each piece of duct-taped ephemera was catalogued, detached, and adhered to magnetic sheets. In order to prepare the Column for transfer, conservators detached 82 loose memorial items from its surface for temporary storage. During the construction and fit-out of the Museum, the Column will be enclosed within a custom-designed, climate controlled interim pavilion. Once installed in its temporary enclosure, project conservators will supervise its care, continually reviewing its condition, and monitoring its safety and environment. The enclosure will accommodate scaffolding platforms for conservator access.

The 'Last Column‛ will be erected vertically in the Museum, set in front of the exposed ‚slurry wall‛ – the retaining wall that remained standing on September 11, 2001, preventing the Hudson River from flooding the World Trade Center site. Visitors will be able to explore the multiple remembrances affixed to and inscribed on every area of the Column through a dynamic, electronic interface. The Museum is currently conducting an oral history project with the goal of recording memories shared by those who left tributes on the Column.

The Column is the first artifact to be moved from conservation at JFK Airport’s Hangar 17 to the Museum in order to continue with steel installation around the large piece. Steel installation is 80% complete and will be complete by the end of the year.

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