The becoming of the World Trade Center

Nov 4, 2005
John Hind

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks destroyed the WTC, remains of the Towers were spread out for different purposes.

Few can forget the image of the World Trade Center lying destroyed four years ago; the towers reduced to a pile of tangled iron, rubble and human remains. This month, plans for a new Twin Towers museum will be unveiled, including a repository for the 9,100 unidentified remains of Ground Zero victims.

But what happened to the rest of the 9/11 ruins? Aside from the ash and dust spread over Manhattan, there was 1.2 million tons of debris. Where did it all go to?

Much of the debris from the attack was transported to Fresh Kills, a landfill site on the western shore of Staten Island, where up to 9,000 tons of wreckage were sifted per day over the following 10 months. Four clean-up management contractors took the rubble by truck to two piers – one on the Hudson River and another at the
tip of lower Manhattan – where it was off-loaded by crane into 3,000 ton-capacity barges.

No black box recorders were found, but more than 65,000 personal items were recovered, including 144 rings, 437 watches, 119 earrings, 80 bracelets and one of the terrorists' passports. The New York City Medical Examiner's Office was sent 20,000 body parts from the site.

Hazardous waste, including freon, fuel and biomedical waste, was moved to a holding area and incinerated. Some chunks of cement rubble were sent for commemorative display to institutions such as the Hilltop House museum in Troy, New Hampshire.

Over 360,000 tons of "fines" – the name for materials that can be passed through a quarter-inch sieve, and which included human remains - were found. After release by the FBI, NYPD and Office of Emergency Management they were bulldozed into a 48 acre landfill area in Fresh Kills' West Mound atop a layer of clean soil, placed over garbage, then covered with more clean soil. Fresh Kills operates a gas collection system, and gases from the site are cleaned to make natural gas for heating and cooking in Staten Island homes.

But last month relatives of victims filed a lawsuit seeking all the 'fines'
to be dug up and transported to somewhere more tasteful for a "dignified burial". City authorities propose the easier and cheaper option of forming the material into two embankments, precisely as long as the twin towers were high.

As for Fresh Kills - which had officially closed six months before 9/11, having received New York's rubbish for 100 years – what to do with the 2,200 acre site is currently under public consultation.

Suggestions include a park, a dude ranch, an observatory, a camp site, a model aeroplane field, wildlife refuge or a home to wind-driven generators. But what about the Twin Towers' steel? The bulk of the debris which is not buried in Fresh Kills is twisted structural steel.

At least 250 tons went "walkies" (to dubious scrap dealers) before GPS trackers were fitted to trucks leaving Ground Zero. But 350,000 tons of the steel were also auctioned off to Hugo Nue Schitzner, of Staten Island, and Metal Management and Blandford & Co of New Jersey.

These salvage companies then sold the steel to recyclers in China, Malaysia, Korea and India. The Shanghai Boasteel Group Corp bought 50,000 tons for recycling into ingots. A company in India bought 10,000 tons, to make kitchenware, at $120 a ton.

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