Museum Exhibit Conjures Childhood Memories for First Responder

In this split image, retired FDNY firefighter William Denis is seen beside a model of the Twin Towers in 2014 and is again seen beside a model of the Twin Towers as a child with his grandmother in 1966.
William Denis in Museum today (left) and Denis with his grandmother in 1966 (right) (photo provided by William Denis)

When retired FDNY firefighter William Denis, a 9/11 first responder, visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum, he came across the World Trade Center presentation model standing in the historical exhibition and was taken back to a special day in his childhood 48 years ago.

In 1966, Denis’ father, a Port Authority employee of more than 30 years, took his family to the World Trade Center’s ground breaking ceremony. A photographer took a Polaroid photo of Denis and his grandmother standing next to a model of the Twin Towers, which would later be placed on view in the lobby of the 88th floor of the North Tower. It was one of three large-scale presentation models of the World Trade Center site built by architectural firm Minoru Yamasaki Associates (MYA) and was destroyed in the events of September 11.

The only World Trade Center presentation model still in existence now lives in the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s historical exhibition. Constructed between 1969 and 1971, it is the largest and most detailed of the original series of architectural presentation models created by MYA. Measuring eight by 10 feet at the base, with the Twin Towers rising over seven feet high, the model demonstrates the monumental scale of the 110-story buildings, which rose more than a quarter of a mile high, and the sheer size and mass of the original WTC complex.

The model was donated to the 9/11 Memorial Museum by The American Architectural Foundation, made in association with Save America’s Treasures at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and at the National Endowment for the Arts, Alcoa, Otis Elevator Company, McGraw-Hill Construction, the American Institute of Architects, and Minoru Yamasaki Associates. Presentation of the Yamasaki model was made possible by Tourism Cares on behalf of the Travel and Tourism Industry.

Learn more about the original World Trade Center by listening to oral histories recorded by people who worked at the site and by planning a visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

By Margaret Barng, 9/11 Memorial Deputy Communications Manager

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