"Last Column," 9/11 Survivor, Returns to WTC Site - NBC New York

"Last Column," 9/11 Survivor, Returns to WTC Site

The column has spent the last seven years in storage



    The "last column" removed from the World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11 attacks has returned to Ground Zero. (Published Monday, Aug. 24, 2009)

    A massive steel beam that survived the Sept. 11 terror attacks and became a makeshift memorial to victims -- and a symbol of solidarity among first responders -- has come back home to Ground Zero after seven years in storage.

    The 58-ton, 36-foot-tall beam made the trip from a hangar at Kennedy Airport back to the World Trade Center site early this morning.

    Column "1,0001 B" of 2 World Trade Center, as it's officially known, will become part of the Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site.

    "This is the ultimate sign of rebirth," Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward said.

    The beam is so huge that the memorial and museum will have to be erected around it.

    In the weeks and months following the attack, the steel beam, one of 47 that held up the South Tower, was adorned with firehouse patches, police logos, cards, rosary beads, flags, letters to victims and photos of the missing.

    It was cut down, wrapped in black muslin and an American flag, and taken out as bagpipes played "Amazing Grace" during a ceremony marking the end of recovery efforts on May 30, 2002.

    "What makes the Last Column so powerful and authentic is that it was the most makeshift of all the memorials as people spontaneously left firehouse patches, police logos and union stickers to honor the victims," Museum President Joe Daniels told the Daily News.
    The beam had been held at JFK in a climate controlled hangar, awaiting its homecoming. 

    The beam's return to the World Trade Center site marks a milestone in rebuilding efforts -- which has been stymied by delays and disagreements between developer Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority.

    The delays threatened to push back completion of the memorial and museum less than three years from the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

    The Port Authority announced last week that visitors to the WTC site will soon be able to see models and sketches of the memorial design.