Rescue & Recovery

Photo ID Cards Found at Ground Zero Hold Important 9/11 Stories

After the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993 which resulted in six casualties, over a thousand injuries, and the decimation of the complex’s subterranean parking garage, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey implemented security measures that set a new standard for hi-rise building safety. One of those improvements mandated use of a WTC-issued photo ID card to all building employees, tenants and visitors. Entry past the downstairs security desks to the elevators required presentation of these badges, issued to those who worked at the Trade Center and as day-passes to guests and vendors conducting business with tenants. Although these measures tightened day-to-day security within the Towers, they were not a deterrent to the hijackers on 9/11, who had no intention of accessing the buildings on foot. Numbered among those killed that day was Douglas Karpiloff, the former Security and Life Safety Director at the WTC who had helped introduce the photo ID card system in 1993.  

Although so much of the evidence of work life within the Towers was destroyed on 9/11 , laminated photo ID cards survived the debacle in comparatively large numbers. They were found by recovery workers at ground zero and by forensic experts sifting through wreckage at the Fresh Kills landfill. Often, a recovered ID badge was the only tangible evidence that an individual had been in the World Trade Center on September 11.

Authorities went to great length to return IDs to victims’ families and to survivors who had left their IDs behind, on desks and in drawers. In the years following the 9/11 attacks, these photo ID cards have become precious reminders of individuals who were killed as well as testaments of survival. The museum’s collection includes powerful examples of each, most donated with unique connected stories of personal fate, and in differing conditions from untouched to brutally distorted.

Anthony Spataro was already situated in his office on the 98th floor of the North Tower where he worked at Marsh & McLennan as an Assistant Vice President, when Flight 11 struck the building, likely killing him instantly. His company identification badge, salvaged from the wreckage by authorities and returned to his wife months later, reveals the trauma of that brutal impact through its badly singed edges.

Anthony Spataro
Gift of Patricia Wellington

Six floors above him, Douglas Gardner, the Executive Managing Director at Cantor Fitzgerald, had no way to escape the fires and acrid smoke that filled the 105th floor of the North Tower when Flight 11 knifed through the building, severing all viable downward exit routes. His World Trade Center ID badge was one of the few wallet contents salvaged and returned to his family during recovery effort at ground zero and Fresh Kills.

Douglas Gardner
Douglas Gardner’s recovered World Trade Center ID badge; (Gift of Jennifer Gardner)

Meanwhile, Mark H. Rosen called his wife, Patti, from the South Tower to inform her that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He wanted her to get in touch with their three children (then 11, 13 and 16 years old) to assure them that their father was safe in his office at Sandler O’Neill + Partners on the 104th floor of Tower 2. Shortly thereafter, Flight 175 pummeled into Mark’s building, 20 floors beneath him. In March 2002, the NYPD Property Recovery Unit returned Mark’s building ID card – the only recovered item returned to his widow. Patti recalled that her husband always kept his ID card in his shirt breast pocket, and that it seemed contradictory that the card had managed to survive yet none of his physical remains were identified.

Mark Rosen
Mark Rosen’s recovered World Trade Center ID badge; (Gift of Patricia Rosen)

Some who hastily evacuated the Towers on 9/11 left their photo ID badges behind. Others evacuated with their ID badges in tow. These mundane, everyday items resonated with new meaning with the realization as it was the only remnant of a connection to the obliterated Trade Center. Christopher Briggs Young, a temporary employee for Marsh & McLennan Insurance Company and one of the last to escape the North Tower before its collapse, retained the visitor pass that he was issued at 8:30 am on the morning of September 11. Young was on his way to deliver a box of meeting materials to the 99th floor when he became trapped, alone, in an express elevator. After about half an hour, the collapse of the South Tower triggered a power failure that disabled the motor keeping the elevator doors sealed. Young extricated himself from the elevator and escaped from the building, running as the North Tower crumbled behind him.
 Christopher Young
Survivor Christopher Briggs Young’s temporary World Trade Center building ID, issued the morning of September 11, 2001; (Gift of Christopher Young)

Survivor Nancy Seliga’s Port Authority ID card was a duplicate copy of the ID badge that the North Tower Building Manager always carried on her. The two red stripes on the card indicated that in an emergency, she had unlimited access to the buildings – a privilege that she bravely employed on 9/11 as she directed everyone on her floor to evacuate the moment she felt the impact of Flight 11 into the building. Other markings on the card, further delineated Nancy’s access privileges. The “O” indicated “off-hour access” and the “S” granted her entry to the sub-grade levels of the buildings. This ID card was recovered and returned to Nancy in the months after the attacks. It is almost entirely unscathed.

Survivor Nancy Seliga’s recovered World Trade Center ID badge; (Gift of Nancy Seliga)

These are just a few examples of the photo ID badges that have been entrusted to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. We remain interested in acquiring World Trade Center ID badges and learning the individual stories associated with each. Please contact, if you wish to donate one to the permanent collection.