Battered bronze sphere returns to World Trade Center site
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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. It was moved from its temporary location in Manhattan's Battery Park to a location near One World Trade Center. This is 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. It was battered but not destroyed. Fritz Koenig’s 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. It returned to the World Trade Center site after 15 years in Battery Park.
It is also known as “The Sphere.” It was commissioned to stand in the middle of a fountain in front of the plaza between the two towers in 1966. Koenig is a German sculptor. He hewed it out of bronze in Germany. It was installed in 1971. The 45,000-pound bronze and steel sculpture became one of the Twin Towers’ most noteworthy survivors. 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. Officials argued about what to do with the unwieldy survivor. The public continued to view it as a kind of shrine.
Captain William F. Burke, Jr. was a firefighter who died during the rescue efforts. His brother, Michael, 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. This was the testimony he gave 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. They relocated the 25-foot-high sculpture without “adversely impacting the architectural design of the Memorial Plaza.” The statue wasn’t incorporated into the National September 11 Memorial Museum, but it became part of Liberty Park, a green space near the 9/11 Memorial. It’s 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.