10 May 2012

A proper home for the Koenig sphere

The Koenig sphere as it is remembered, glistening in the WTC plaza

The sphere post-9/11, the sun still glinting from its damaged surface
As the years have passed, most of the struggles over how 9/11 should be remembered at Ground Zero have been resolved. But now the final resting place of a very special work of art is in question, again.

In the months and years after 9/11, there were many battles. Back when the twisted steel girders and mountains of ash and remains of those who perished were being taken from the site, family members were pushing hard to make their voices heard. When developers and city officials tried to erase most of what was left after the towers fell and thousands died, Beverly Eckert and other family members said no. Their voices were united in the Coalition of 9/11 Family Members, a group that focused on making sure Ground Zero would not be bulldozed, buried, developed and forgotten, with only a token space devoted to a memorial. 

Beverly and other family members had to fight hard, but often they won. Thanks to their efforts, major features left behind after the destruction of the Twin Towers was cleared away were incorporated into the design of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. The issues the coalition fought for are listed in this 2005 petition.

But once again people are talking about the sphere, a massive metal sculpture designed by Fritz Koenig which was damaged by the pieces of the falling Twin Towers and was displayed for years in Lower Manhattan's Battery Park. The sculpture, which is titled "Sphere for Plaza Fountain," after it's original location, must soon be moved to make way for a long-scheduled renovation of the park. But moved where?

It seems that the owners of the the artwork, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, have not figured out where to place it. Beverly and other coalition members felt strongly that the sphere belonged at Ground Zero, as an integral part of the memorial complex. Thousands of others feel the same way, and have signed a petition to that effect.

There are many good reasons for 9/11 Memorial officials to incorporate this unique and deeply evocative survivor of that horrible day. The artist himself said it was meant to be a symbol of peace through world trade. For countless people who worked in the Twin Towers or visited them, the sphere tells a moving story, bridging the happy, busy days before and the tear-stained days after. It captures the memories of those times before the horrible day, of sunny lunches shared with friends by the plaza fountain, of school trips to the big city, of business deals, of work, play, wonder and love in the shadow of those magnificent buildings. But now the sphere shows scars, dents and scrapes from that day. 

May it gleam once again in its proper place under many, many sunny days.

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