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Grant will help preserve famed Ground Zero column

A $200,000 grant will enable the National September 11 Memorial & Museum to preserve the "last column," which stood amid the rubble of the World Trade Center for months after the 2001 terror attacks, museum officials announced Friday.

The 36-foot-tall steel column, as well as many construction worker-scrawled tributes that covered it, will be restored and erected inside the museum, thanks to the grant from the nonprofit organization, Save America's Treasures, museum officials said.

"This funding will not only help restore and preserve a collection of tributes to 9/11 victims, but also protect an irreplaceable piece of this nation's history," Memorial president Joe Daniels said.

"We want to ensure this American treasure will be here to share with the rest of the world," he said. "The last column will stand as an enduring marker of the heroic rescue and recovery effort at Ground Zero."

The steel column, which includes photos of 9/11 victims, spray-painted inscriptions and missing persons fliers, stood at Ground Zero until May 2002.

Among the photos on the iconic column is one of Dennis Cross, a New York City firefighter from Islip Terrace who died in the south tower.

The column was stored for several years in a climate-controlled storage hangar at Kennedy Airport before returning to the World Trade Center site Aug. 24.

"The last column withstood tremendous destruction and served as a symbol of a nation's resiliency," museum director Alice M. Greenwald said. "We are working to protect more than rusted steel and fragile ephemera. We are conserving the spirit of generosity, unselfish acts of service, and protecting the memories of innocent lives lost."

With the grant funding, workers will restore the deteriorating column. They will assess its condition and monitor its surrounding climate at the museum.

The column's site inside the museum will be directly in front of the original retaining wall that remained standing and kept back the Hudson River waters after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The museum is expected to open in time for the 10th anniversary of the attacks in 2011.

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