Interpreting the Last Column: In this series, 9/11 Memorial & Museum exhibitions staff share the stories behind the markings and tributes placed on the Last Column. The Last Column was the final piece of steel to be removed from the World Trade Center site marking the completion of the nine-month recovery period. A symbol of resilience and marker of loss, it now stands in the Museum’s Foundation Hall bearing its memorial tributes. If you signed or left a tribute on the column and would like to share your story, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph Johnson and Herbert Minks, cousins also known as the Cigar Guys of Ground Zero, placed these stickers on the Last Column on May 28, 2002, the day the column was cut down. The stickers, designed by Johnson, honors rescue and recovery workers, commemorates the victims of the 9/11 attacks, and symbolizes Johnson and Minks' work at Ground Zero.
While providing chiropractic services at Ground Zero, Johnson also distributed cigars to his patients and others at the site. Rescue and recovery workers appreciated the gesture, welcoming a break from their difficult work. Inspired, Johnson and Minks proceeded to hand out cigars every Tuesday night for the duration of the nine-month recovery period.
Although Johnson and Minks initially purchased the cigars, thousands more were donated by Gary Kolesaire of the Tobacco Store in Ridgewood, N.J., and Altadis U.S.A.
"There were very few moments of downtime at Ground Zero," said Brian Sullivan, a sergeant with the Port Authority Police Department. "Cigars helped in the downtime."
By Emily Edwards, Collections and Exhibitions Coordinator, and Katherine Fleming, Exhibition Coordinator