The story of the bronze sphere at the World Trade Center site
The story of the bronze sphere at the World Trade Center site A section of the Koenig Sphere, a 25-ton bronze sphere damaged by the collapsing World Trade Center is lifted by crane into Liberty Park near One World Trade Center on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo Peter Morgan/Wikipedia/Creative Commons)
The story of the bronze sphere at the World Trade Center site
Lexile: 1400L

Assign to Google Classroom

Fritz Koenig's statue "Sphere for Plaza Fountain" has returned home. The Associated Press reports last Wednesday, workers began moving the 25-foot-high sculpture from its temporary location in Manhattan's Battery Park to a location near One World Trade Center, where the statue once stood from 1971 until the aftermath of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

When the dust settled after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, a symbol of the World Trade Center as it used to be remained. Battered but not destroyed, Fritz Koenigs statue “Sphere for Plaza Fountain” survived the destruction of the Twin Towers. And now, reports David W. Dunlap for The New York Times, it’s home - returning to the World Trade Center site after 15 years in Battery Park.

“The Sphere,” as it is also known, was commissioned to stand in the middle of a fountain in front of the plaza between the two towers in 1966. Koenig, a German sculptor, hewed it out of bronze in Germany and it was installed in 1971. The 45,000-pound bronze and steel sculpture became one of the Twin Towers’ most noteworthy survivors when it was discovered among the rubble. Inside, workers found a bible, an airline seat and papers from the fallen towers. 

The sphere became a symbol of the power of art and hope to transcend terror, but after the attacks, the question of whether and how to incorporate the Sphere into planned 9/11 memorial became a contentious issue. As Dunlap reports, the Sphere was dismantled and rebuilt as an interim memorial in the Battery area of Lower Manhattan in 2002. It then became a flash point for public tensions around how best to memorialize the terror attack’s victims. As officials argued about what to do with the unwieldy survivor, the public continued to view it as a kind of shrine.

As Dunlap reported in 2012, Michael Burke, the brother of Captain William F. Burke, Jr., a firefighter who died during the rescue efforts, led a guerrilla campaign to scrub the statue after it fell into disrepair. “Thirty years it stood as a symbol of world peace,” said Burke in a testimony before a public meeting of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 2012.

“At lunchtime every nice day, office workers of every race, language and dress gathered around it," he continued. "At Gettysburg, Normandy, Hiroshima and Auschwitz, past generations preserved the authentic artifacts at their place in order to faithfully convey the history of each. It’s by that we best honor the memory of those who perished.”

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey agreed to bring the Sphere home, relocating the 25-foot-high sculpture without, as the release promised, “adversely impacting the architectural design of the Memorial Plaza.” Though the statue wasn’t incorporated into the National September 11 Memorial Museum, it became part of Liberty Park, a green space near the 9/11 Memorial that is home to, among other plants, a descendant of the horse chestnut tree that stood over Anne Frank’s hiding place in Amsterdam during World War II. The Sphere will live on - and serve as a poignant, visceral reminder of what New York lost on that fateful day nearly 16 years ago.

Source URL:

Filed Under:  
Assigned 32 times
Why was the sphere moved twice?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • Frank F-gru
    8/29/2017 - 09:44 a.m.

    Read the article and summarize in our own

  • NatalieF-pla1
    9/15/2021 - 11:41 a.m.

    Before the fall of the Twin Towers in September 11, 2001's terrorist attack, a spherical statue stood as a symbol of the towers. Fritz Koenig's "Sphere for Plaza Fountain" survived the attacks, battered and dented, but still bronze. Inside, there lied a bible, an airline seat, and papers from one of the towers, each memorabilia to the devastation that occurred. For many years, citizens argued whether or not they should display the statue at the memorial. It was the brother of a victim that swayed them with his moving words. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will return the statue to Liberty Park in memorial for its victims and those who live yet. It serves as a testament, not just to the destruction and terror of 9/11, but to not forgetting history and testifying in the face of fear.

  • IsaiahB-pla
    9/15/2021 - 11:41 a.m.

    The Sphere for Plaza Fountain has been through an incredible journey. Visible on it is the damage inflicted when the Twin Towers fell. People feel is a shrine showing that sometimes things can even survive the darkest of times. I connect with it on civic engagement because even though 9/11 was before my time, I have a great sense of pride in my country. The first time I saw video footage I felt as many other people felt, angry, sad, and confused. My heart immediately reached out to the victims and families affected by this terrible event. The sphere shows Americans' toughness and the mindset of, "bend but not break".

  • MatthewR-pla
    9/15/2021 - 04:00 p.m.

    September 11th, 2001 was the wake up call for all Americans. What had happened on that day was a national tragedy and a severe wake up call from the blissful ignorance of the 90s. All hope seemed lost in the rubble that remained, however, one thing still stood, the Koenig Sphere. This statue had survived the attacks on that fateful day,and has been used as a symbol to this day. And now, after 15 years of being away from the site, is finally coming home. This statue can be used to garner civic engagement by commemorating those who lost their lives in the September 11 attacks. Just as it has become a beacon for remembrance and acceptance now, it can be used in that way to bring people into becoming more active in their communities today.

  • CalebY-pla
    9/17/2021 - 10:36 p.m.

    This story was about the bronze statue that used to stand between the twin towers before 9/11. After 9/11, the sphere remained battered, but intact. It kept moving around until recently, when it found its permanent home at the 9/11 memorial. This is an analogy I feel for the American spirit; even though 9/11 tested the spirit of this country, the spirit was never broken and actually strengthened over time. This is evidenced by the fact that the civic involvement actually increased for the first time following that terror attack as Americans started to (at least temporarily) care more about the government.

  • GraceL-pla
    9/23/2021 - 11:05 a.m.

    The story of the bronze "Sphere for Plaza Fountain" is one of strength and loss. Since 1971, the piece stood in front of the World Trade Centers, and in the events of 9/11, it was damaged, but not destroyed. The statue was then moved to Battery Park, where it stood as a symbol for the survivors, the lost, and the conflict over reactions to 9/11. Then, in 2017 the bronze sphere returned to its original spot in Memorial Plaza after a public citizen spoke in favor of its return. That citizen, Michael Burke, engaged in civic virtue by participating in local politics to petition for a symbol of peace and prosperity to be returned to its formal stance. The sphere stands to gather all communities. The civic virtue displayed by Burke is one example of the many ways to become involved, from volunteering to voting.

  • LindseyJ-pla
    9/23/2021 - 01:20 p.m.

    The story of "the sphere" is truly incredible and inspiring. It survived what many people did not, the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Relating 9/11 to civics, after this tragedy was when there was a spike in voting across America. The public wanted to become more involved and to make a difference. The sphere is very powerful in symbolism.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment