The Koenig Sphere, a symbol of peace that survived significant damage on 9/11 to become an emblem of hope and resilience, was officially rededicated in its new home in Liberty Park today. With 9/11 Memorial staff, Port Authority officials and community members watching, the program began with a presentation by the Port Authority Honor Guard, a performance of “America the Beautiful” by bagpipes and drum and a rendition of the national anthem by a Port Authority police officer.
Four people integral to the advocacy efforts surrounding the Sphere gave brief remarks: Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority; Michael Burke, whose brother, Capt. William F. Burke Jr. of Engine Company 21 was killed on Sept. 11, 2001; Christiane Fischer, CEO of AXA Art Americas Corporation, the legal insurers for the Sphere; and Alice Greenwald, president and CEO of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
The 25-foot, 25-ton metallic sculpture was originally commissioned by the Port Authority in 1966. Positioned as a centerpiece of the World Trade Center Plaza for decades, the Sphere was both a landmark and a recognizable place for New Yorkers and visitors to gather.
As the only piece of iconic artwork to survive the 9/11 attacks, it became a symbol of strength, survival and resilience and reflected “the tenacious spirit of all those affected,” said Fischer. Like the United States after the fateful event, the Sphere emerged “very bruised, much broken, but not defeated.”
The Sphere at Ground Zero, as captured by FEMA photographer Andrea Booher.
On March 11, 2002, the Sphere was erected in Battery Park as the first official memorial to the victims of 9/11 in New York City. The Port Authority voted in 2016 to return it to World Trade Center site.
From its monumental overlook in Liberty Park, “the Sphere stands as a benevolent witness to its successor, the official, permanent 9/11 Memorial,” said Greenwald. “Still bearing the scars of the violence it had withstood, the Sphere provides a poignant, poetic complement to the Memorial, whose mission of remembrance, education, and inspiration is echoed by its dramatic presence.”
Michael Burke, who had long advocated for the Sphere’s return to the World Trade Center, credited the Port Authority with showing humanity and heart in its decision to move the sculpture from Batter Park to the World Trade Center site. Burke remarked that the “defiant Sphere” represents the heroism of the first responders and is a “beautiful tribute to the 84 members lost” from the Port Authority on 9/11.
Now in its permanent home, the Port Authority has recommended that the Sphere be added to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Registry of Historic Places.
By 9/11 Memorial Staff