The 13 Year Journey of the 9/11 Museum’s First Artifact

The 13 Year Journey of the 9/11 Museum’s First Artifact

Lady Liberty outside of the Battalion 9 firehouse in September, 2001. Photographer unknown.

Where she originally came from remains a mystery, but in the days following Sept. 11, a nearly 11-foot Statue of Liberty replica appeared outside the Engine 54, Ladder 4 firehouse in Midtown Manhattan. The replica, which is viewed as a symbol of the city’s resilience, strength and compassion, would find its way to the 9/11 Memorial Museum after a 13-year journey.

In the time that it stood guard outside of the busy firehouse, the fiberglass statue transformed into a spontaneous, collective memorial. Wanting to pay respects to the house that lost 15 men on 9/11, members of the public adorned Lady Liberty with tribute items, flags and hopeful messages.Lady Liberty. Photo: Bruce White.

In late 2001, with winter weather approaching, the house relocated Lady Liberty to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum where she became the center of an exhibit about 9/11. She continued to acquire tributes while on display at the aircraft carrier, including memorial items from victims’ families.     

When the Intrepid closed for renovations, the 9/11 Memorial Museum began working with the FDNY to take the artifact into the museum's collection. In late 2006, Lady Liberty became the new museum’s first major acquisition.

“It may have started out as a gesture to one firehouse, but it performed as a collective alter of grief and respect,” Chief Curator Jan Ramirez said. “It is the co-mingling of shock, pride and compassion all tied up in tributes to the most famous of New York City icons. There isn’t anything more symbolic of New York City than the Statue of Liberty.”

With the museum under construction, she was placed in the museum’s offices, and ultimately installed in the museum in 2013. A team of conservators and art handlers oversaw each move to protect each of her fragile tributes.

Her image is now the center of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum's "Our City. Our Story." awarness campaign designed to engage more New Yorkers through messages of hope and endurance. 

By Jenny Pachucki, 9/11 Memorial Content Strategist