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.
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey maintains its own police department to protect and serve all facilities under the agency’s jurisdiction. These include six tunnels and bridges connecting New York and New Jersey, five airports, the PATH rail transit system, the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the World Trade Center.
Thirty-seven members of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD), including seven members of its Emergency Service Unit (ESU), were killed as a result of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. This was the greatest loss of personnel of any police force in a single event in American history.
“PAPD 37” was one of the first markings spray painted on the Last Column during the recovery period at Ground Zero. The marking is written in two places on the column. Stickers honoring the PAPD and PAPD ESU were placed alongside one of the markings before the steel column was removed from the site on May 30, 2002.
Left: Last Column, May 10, 2002. Photograph by Peter Morgan, Reuters. Right: PAPD Detective Thomas McHale removes an American flag from the Last Column, May 28, 2002. Photograph by Kathy Willens, AP Photo.
By Emily Edwards, Collections and Exhibitions Coordinator, and Katherine Fleming, Exhibition Coordinator, 9/11 Memorial