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Only a Few Pieces of Steel Relics From the World Trade Center Remain — Here’s Where the Rest Has Gone

In an airplane hangar at New York’s Kennedy Airport, fewer than 30 pieces of steel remain from the debris recovered after terrorists flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center’s twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Even 14 years after the attacks, applications are still pending for the pieces of metal – mostly for memorials and museum exhibits – and some pieces found a new home as recently as last week in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Florida.

Here’s a look at what has become of the relics of the World Trade Center:

How much steel?

Beginning in August 1968, builders used 200,000 tons of steel to build the World Trade Center complex, enough to raise the twin towers to heights of 1,362 feet (south tower) and 1,368 feet (north tower). Out of 1.8 million tons of debris removed from the site after the attacks, recovery workers collected 840 pieces of steel, some of which were cut up to make a total of 2,200 separate items. They ranged from 6-inch slabs to massive beams to the 7.5 tons the Navy used in the construction of the warship USS New York.

A steel beam from the World Trade Center stands at the center of Foundation Hall. (John Munson-Pool/Getty Images)A steel beam from the World Trade Center stands at the center of Foundation Hall. (John Munson-Pool/Getty Images)

Where did it go?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and members of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department honor the arrival of an about 2,000-pound World Trade Center steel beam enclosed in a case draped with the American flag, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, at Miami International Airport in Miami. The beam will spend the night at a cargo facility at MIA and will be ground transported Friday, Aug. 14, to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The beam’s final resting place will be at the Kennedy Space Center Fire Rescue’s 9/11 memorial. (AP/Alan Diaz)U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and members of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department honor the arrival of an about 2,000-pound World Trade Center steel beam enclosed in a case draped with the American flag, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, at Miami International Airport in Miami. The beam will spend the night at a cargo facility at MIA and will be ground transported Friday, Aug. 14, to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The beam’s final resting place will be at the Kennedy Space Center Fire Rescue’s 9/11 memorial. (AP/Alan Diaz)

The artifacts can be found anchoring memorials or museum exhibits in all 50 states and eight countries: Germany, Canada, Brazil, South Korea, The United Kingdom, Afghanistan, China and Ireland. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey oversees the artifact program, reviewing applications and parceling out the steel and other items to about 1,500 individual nonprofit groups, governments or museums so far. The artifact must be available for the public to view it.

How much is left?

Fewer than 30 pieces of steel, including pieces of rail tracks, remain. Fewer than 70 other artifacts such as clothing or toys also remain in Hangar 17 at Kennedy Airport.

London's mayor Boris Johnson, right, unveils a sculpture by U.S. artist Miya Ando entitled "Since 9/11", which uses steel taken from the World Trade Center during the unveiling at the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park in London, Tuesday, March, 17, 2015. The piece is not a memorial but was commissioned by a UK-based charity to help educate Londoners about the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. (AP/Alastair Grant)London’s mayor Boris Johnson, right, unveils a sculpture by U.S. artist Miya Ando entitled “Since 9/11″, which uses steel taken from the World Trade Center during the unveiling at the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park in London, Tuesday, March, 17, 2015. The piece is not a memorial but was commissioned by a UK-based charity to help educate Londoners about the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. (AP/Alastair Grant)

Are items still being sought?

Yes. Thirty applications are pending approval, and 40 others are in the review process. Even as recently as last week, an 8-foot-long, 1,100-pound steel beam arrived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, while other pieces were distributed to Ware, Massachusetts, and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida during August. The Ware Fire Department is building a second memorial using trade center artifacts. It received a 1,600-pound piece of steel in August that will be used in a memorial that is still being discussed. At the space center, the beam will be the centerpiece of a permanent memorial at Fire Station No. 1. That memorial includes small-scale replicas of the twin towers.

A salvaged section of steel facade from the North Tower from Ground Zero on display in the the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)A salvaged section of steel facade from the North Tower from Ground Zero on display in the the National September 11 Memorial Museum. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Was any of the steel recycled or discarded?

No. The Port Authority’s mission was to preserve the artifacts and distribute them to worthy groups to memorialize the attacks.

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