remains of the day


There is a hangar at JFK Airport – Hangar 17 – where, until recently, about 1200 pieces of steel and other objects from the World Trade Center site were warehoused. In the frenetic days after the attacks, these remains were selected as tokens of 9/11, so that they might be dispersed to memorials around the US, foremost among them the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero, which opens on the tenth anniversary of the event.[*] The clean-up of the site was as torturous – it lasted nine months – as the sorting at Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island was meticulous. In all, 1.8 million tons of rubble and debris were removed, of which the objects at the hangar comprise only a fraction of one per cent. Much of the tonnage consisted of steel columns and beams, and several of these, buckled and bent, were taken to the hangar – graphic evidence of the sheer force of the strike and subsequent collapse. Most of the material was pulverised, and no human trace is left of more than 40 per cent of the nearly 3000 victims. From the weaponised jets and the fallen towers to the remains at the hangar and the memorial museum at the site: it is a strange circle to contemplate, with grim ironies of its own, but it might bring a measure of closure to some. Long resident in New York, the Catalan artist Francesc Torres was two blocks from the WTC when the first jet struck the north tower, and he witnessed the collapse of both buildings from his studio rooftop ten blocks away. Commissioned by the 9/11 Museum, Torres photographed the 80,000 square-foot interior of the hangar every day in April 2009. His pictures, which proceed from broad views of the hangar to close-ups of individual objects, are now gathered in a book entitled Memory Remains: 9/11 Artefacts at Hangar 17;[†] they are currently on view at the International Center for Photography in New York and the Imperial War Museum (until 26 February 2012).

more from Hal Foster at the TLS here.