The last major pieces of wreckage from Ground Zero have been removed from the Kennedy Airport hangar that has housed them for 15 years — the first step in placing the artifacts in museums nationwide.
The three artifacts were moved Tuesday after a special ceremony at the hangar and turned over to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a Staten Island-based nonprofit set up in Siller’s memory.
Siller, 34, a Rockville Centre resident and FDNY firefighter, ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers to try to save people trapped inside on Sept. 11, 2001. A father of five, Siller died that day along with 342 other firefighters, 23 NYPD officers and 37 Port Authority police officers.
“Stephen was our little gift,” said his brother Frank Siller, foundation chairman and CEO, at the Hangar 17 ceremony attended by officials from his group, the NYPD, FDNY and the Port Authority. Daniel Rodriguez, a retired NYPD officer who gained fame for singing “God Bless America” at events nationwide after 9/11, performed the national anthem at Tuesday’s ceremony.
The three World Trade Center artifacts that will be preserved are a 40,000-pound parking structure column, a 35,000-pound elevator motor, and a 40,000-pound TV antenna connector base from the north tower. Six broadcast engineers from New York City television stations died while monitoring transmissions from the antenna on Sept. 11.
In an impassioned speech, Siller said the artifacts would remind future generations of Americans of the sacrifices made by first responders on 9/11.
“We owe it to them. We owe it to them to get out there and make sure that their family members, that their brothers, that their sisters are not forgotten,” he said. “That their fathers, their mothers are not forgotten. And this is how we do it ... with these sacred, sacred artifacts.”
Officials would not disclose where the artifacts were being taken, saying only they were being removed to a secure site until they could put on display at museums nationwide.
John LaBarbera, 64, chief of the FDNY 23rd Battalion, said the artifacts may go on the road as part of the foundation’s mobile 9/11 exhibit. The traveling museum, which has visited more than 25 states and Canada, features other Ground Zero relics, from steel to audiotapes of fallen responders’ final transmissions.
LaBarbera, who knew firefighters who died on 9/11, said he had heard many emotional responses from people viewing the artifacts.
“People are overwhelmed by their experience looking through it,” he said. “The first thing that we get from people is where they were that day.”