One of the largest unaltered World Trade Center remnants in upstate New York, the central column of Amsterdam’s 9/11 Memorial was especially selected not to be the tallest, but to be the best, to tell the narrative of that day, and Amsterdam’s connection to it.
Working with historians at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Amsterdam’s City Historian sought a particular artifact after it was no longer required by law enforcement as evidence. This piece was a concrete and steel column from the P3 parking level of the North Tower that had survived mainly intact from not only the 2001 attack but also the nearby 1993 bombing. The piece was located, donated, and transported to Amsterdam by volunteer truckers.
It was erected in the style of an ancient stele or obelisk, upright structures that conveyed especially important information. Other than preservation treatment, it was left as is was so that no one else’s interpretation would be inserted between the object and the thoughts and feelings of the viewer.
The column, damaged but unbroken, may suggest strength in adversity and resilience against adversary; but it is left to for each to draw and take away their own conclusions.
Erected at the middle of a circular base, whose top is an irregular, treated concrete. The circular structure represents closure, the coming together of Americans in the aftermath, and the rough surface the rough path that laid – and still lays – ahead. On the edging of the base are escribed two dates and two times: the date of the attack, date of dedication, the time that American Airlines Flight 11 turned south over Amsterdam (8:26 am), and the time it struck the North Tower (8:46 am).
Extrapolating from the Federal Aviation Administration’s radar plot summary, Flight 11 began a turn from west to south over the vicinity of Hagaman and straightened up over Town of Florida: that would have put the plane passing over Amsterdam approximately 100 yards to the west of the memorial.
Two flag poles flank the monument: one flies the "Flag of Honor," the other, the New York State 9/11 Flag. The "Flag of Honor': has inscribed upon it the names of the victims of that day in red. Often complained about as a "faded" US flag, the lightened colors are due to the names in red taking the place of the solid strips; the original version had the names in white on the red stripes, but no US flag manufacturer would make it due to the customary proscription to not write anything on the flag.
Under one flag flies the US Navy signal flags (CHARLIE- POPPA) meaning "I am steaming to assist." After 9/11, Navy medical facilities changed their traditional "I am standing by to assist" signal to this in honor of first responders. Under the other, the first US Naval Jack (the rattlesnake flag): in 2002, the Secretary of the Navy ordered that this should replace the traditional jack on warships until the end of the Global War on Terrorism.
Before these (and the memorial lamp post) were raised (“stepped’), an ancient maritime tradition was observed, and a gold coin was placed at the base of each.These coins were a set of commemorative coins struck by the U. S. Mint honoring the victims of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania.
The memorial lamp post burns twenty-four hours, 365 days. On September 11th, a fire bell is mounted on its side, and an Amsterdam Fire Department responder rings the New York City bell signal "5-5-5-5," used since 1870 for "Firefighter Down."
Each night, four flood lamps illuminate the column so that it is visible throughout the downtown approaches, much in the fashion of the memorial lamps at Ground Zero in New York City.
The path to the memorial is marked by uniquely designed banners and signs, the basic design is that of the ribbon of the New York State Defense of Liberty Ribbon with stars for each of the highjacked flights: they are arranged on the stripes in a staggered "Missing Man" formation, a traditional US Air Force symbol of mourning.
If you stand behind the "8:26" inscription and line up on the column and lamp post,you are standing on the azimuth (true, not magnetic) from Amsterdam to the North Tower, and roughly, the flight path of Flight 11.
As the memorial’s trees grow, each year the city adds more interpretive elements to site, in the hope of that the memorial will continue to develop as a unique location to remember and reflect.