A Museum within a Museum


ALICE GREENWALD:
You’re in the basement of the World Trade Center. It is a place of witness. Most museums house artifacts, and we are a museum that sits
within an artifact. Placing the museum
at the foundation of the site, that was a great challenge, but it was also
a terrific opportunity. You’re seeing
the authentic remnants of the World Trade Center. CARL KREBS:
You gradually descend a total of nearly 70 feet until
you reach the bedrock level, which is the site of the
original tower footprints. STEVEN DAVIS: The emotion,
the scale of the event and the memory of what was are visceral when you look
at the torn reinforcing steel that’s visible in these areas. GREENWALD: The slurry wall,
the retaining wall that was built in the ’60s,
was created to keep the water of the Hudson River out. DAVIS:
It was initially six floors of garage. The lateral force of the underground
parking garage levels held the slurry wall in place. When the collapses happened and you had this mound
of debris, what was holding the slurry wall
steady was the debris. DAVIS:
As the debris was removed, there had to be a methodology
for reinforcing the slurry wall so it wouldn’t collapse. That was probably
one of our biggest issues. As we removed the lift
of debris, we anchored the slurry wall
and stabilized the slurry wall. KREBS:
And it did not fail, and it did not create
an enormous flood. And people grew to see that
as a metaphor of survival. This is a model of the ramp,
which is really your primary point of entry
to the museum. GREENWALD:
The ramp is truly symbolic. When the World Trade Center
was first constructed in the 1960s and early ’70s,
there was a construction ramp. After 9/11, a ramp was put in
to haul the debris out. The most stirring memory I have
was the procession that accompanied
the removal of bodies and the ceremonies
on the 9/11 anniversaries. GREENWALD:
The exterior of the towers had a kind of gothic arch motif that was created
by structural columns, tridents that branched
into a fork with three prongs. When the towers fell,
there were pieces of the exterior facade
of both towers that remained standing
at precarious angles. We wanted something visible
at the plaza level that would signal
this is a museum. And so they would, in effect, become the vertical spine
of the museum. And it’s a great message, it really is,
about standing tall. DAVIS:
100 years from now, nobody alive will have
witnessed 9/11. But this is a museum
that is going to live for many, many,
many generations. GREENWALD:
It is really about changing the charge of this place
from negative to positive. We’re not going to stop
terrorism. All we have control over
is how we respond. And that’s what this museum
is about: the best of humanity in
the worst moments imaginable. We tell those stories.

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