A Living History: The Stories Behind 9/11 Artifacts

A Living History: The Stories Behind 9/11 Artifacts

"A Living History: The Stories Behind 9/11 Artifacts" is a three-part series written by oral historian Jenny Pachucki of the 9/11 Memorial Museum and edited by Meghan Walsh, communications associate for the 9/11 Memorial. "Symbol Steel" is part 2 of 3 in the series.

He knew how to handle a striker and blow torch. A deft welder, NYPD's David Brink began to forge symbols from remnant steel during his time at ground zero. The emergency services unit officer welded the symbols from large pieces of steel once piled at the southwest corner of the World Trade Center site near Liberty and Church streets.

Recovery efforts slowed at site at that particular time because of major construction activity, which required workers to clear the area.  Brink asked members of an ironworkers union if he could use their equipment, and they consented.  In the nine months he worked at the WTC site, Brink created multiple crosses and one silhouette of the twin towers from the steel. He recently donated the works along with other artifacts to the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

Other ironworkers joined Brink in creating shapes from the steel during their spare time, which wasn't often.  They created religious symbols such as a cross or Star of David.  But not all steel had religious symbols. One beam at hangar at JFK Airport, where many of the site’s large artifacts and steel are stored, shows the cutout of the New York City skyline—with the twin towers still in place.

The above photos show the steel beam from which crosses were cut and a cross freed from the steel with a blow torch.

By Jenny Pachucki, Oral Historian of the 9/11 Memorial Museum