Ramp That Was Gateway to Ground Zero Coming Down

Fri December 19, 2008 - Northeast Edition

NEW YORK (AP) A ramp that has carried Sept. 11 victims and their mourners, the president and the pope in and out of ground zero is coming down.

The pathway was built in the months following the 2001 terrorist attacks to bring construction trucks and people from street level to the base of the destroyed World Trade Center towers 80 ft. below.

In the spring of 2002, firefighters and construction workers carried victims’ remains in ceremonial processionals up the ramp. In June, the last column of trade center steel recovered in the initial cleanup was removed.

Over the years, dignitaries including President George W. Bush, Pope Benedict XVI and then-presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain have descended the pathway for ceremonies.

And each Sept. 11, thousands of victims’ family members formed a processional to the twin towers’ base to lay flowers and say prayers for their loved ones.

The 460-ft. ramp needs to be removed to make way for cranes that will build the steel foundation of the Sept. 11 memorial, featuring twin pools of cascading waterfalls the size of each of the towers, a tree-filled, cobblestone plaza and a below-ground museum.

The trade center site’s owner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, will begin taking the ramp apart. The job is expected to take about a month.

Losing the ramp will complicate the delivery of construction materials to the site, where office towers, the memorial and a transit hub are being built. Workers will use staircases built along the site’s walls to descend into the pit, and cranes will lower materials to the trade center basement.

The ramp overlooks part of the future Sept. 11 museum and will one day be a part of it. A piece of the ramp will be preserved for a permanent museum exhibit, said the head of the memorial foundation.

“Its use, in particular, on 9/11 anniversaries to bring people to bedrock, has been an important part of personal and collective commemoration,’’ said Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.