Amid lower Manhattan’s commercial boom where the twin towers once stood, the city’s personal connection to the September 11th terrorist attacks continues to thrive.
The 9/11 Tribute Center, the nation’s first Ground Zero museum, is moving its gallery space to a new larger location nearby.
Since 2005, four million people have visited the gallery of artifacts, including a twisted six-foot long World Trade Center steel beam that prominently stood in the Tribute Center’s lobby in the now-closed Liberty Street location.
On Wednesday, Local 40 Iron Workers removed the beam, which will be installed at the New York State Museum in Albany. A smaller beam will be installed at the Tribute Center’s new Greenwich Street location.
Before his crew removed the beam and hoisted it with a crane onto a flatbed truck, Tim Guerin, general manager of Burgess Steel, said his team was proud to be part of the Tribute Center.
“We spent a lot of time down here during the rescue days. I remember it as a war zone,” said Guerin, 51, of Holmdel, New Jersey. “I’m glad to see that the area is rebuilt and that we made it better.”
Senior curator Meriam Lobel said thousands wandered around the remains of the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks looking for a human connection.
“Hundreds of thousands were coming downtown trying to see 9/11. But it was just a big empty construction site,” she said.
First responders, survivors and families who lost loved ones realized they needed a place to meet and to relate the events of Sept. 11, 2001 to others.
At least 850 survivors became volunteer docents who shared their 9/11 experiences with thousands of center visitors.
Their stories have helped provide a deeper understanding how the attacks affected Americans, Lobel said.
“These stories give hope,” said Lobel. “Our healing is to connect with other people.”
The new gallery space will expand on these narratives, using audio and visual exhibits that illustrate how survivors moved forward in their lives by supporting and helping others affected by terrorism, violence and even a natural disaster.
Some survivors came to the emotional aid of families who lost children in the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Others raised money to buy books for school children in Afghanistan.
Some of these recorded stories come from recovery workers and Red Cross and Salvation Army volunteers who helped during the recovery and cleanup effort that fed and supplied clothing and gear to first responders.
A new artifact on display at the center’s new location is a custom-built metal bolt especially designed to fasten the spire to One World Trade Center. The bolt was donated by iron worker Kevin Murphy, who helped in the 9/11 rescue effort hours after the collapse and later worked on the construction of One World Trade.
His father helped build the original World Trade Center, and as a child, Murphy visited the construction site. The bolt, he said, is a symbol of rebirth.
“The spire’s bolt was given to me and other workers who helped build One World Trade, which was an honor for all of us,” he said. “There was a special feeling – a feeling that we were putting back what was taken away. This building [One World Trade] represents that we have come back from a terrible day.”