The remaining wreckage of the Twin Towers and the fire and rescue vehicles that tried vainly and fatally to save them are in Hangar 17 at New York’s JFK airport.
The goal of the artifacts’ caretakers is to have the hangar largely empty by the 10th anniversary of 9/11 two months from now.
Some of the most poignant and emblematic, like the scorched and crushed fire engines, are destined for the museum and visitors center at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan.
But others, mainly twisted and scorched girders and I-beams and chunks of concrete, are going to become part of memorials in town squares, municipal centers, airports, military bases and remembrance gardens.
The debris is free and the New York-New Jersey Port Authority will ship any artifact under 150 pounds. For the largest pieces the communities have to come get it themselves, using volunteered flatbeds and volunteer labor.
The al-Qaida terrorists who flew the hijacked airliners, into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and, thanks to the heroism of the passengers, into an empty Pennsylvania field, believed their spectacular display of callous indifference to human life would humiliate and demoralize the United States, causing us to retreat from the Mideast.
Instead it infuriated the country, and Al-Qaida members and their allies and their leader, Osama bin Laden, paid for the attack with their lives.
The 9/11 artifacts are going to memorials in 1,000 communities in all 50 states and six countries. These will not be monuments to defeat, as al-Qaida naively believed, but to a smoldering desire for vengeance.
Said one volunteer fire captain who was at Hangar 17 to pick up materials for his town’s memorials, “The longer I look at this, the more angry I get.”
That will be true for most Americans and that’s not at all what al-Qaida had in mind.