On the east side of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, outside the London Aquatics Centre, there is a striking piece of public artwork. All warped and buckled steel reaching skyward, it is a remnant of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and a call for a more peaceful, harmonious future.
Donated to London by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, it is one of only six Twin Tower remnants to be sent overseas. The 28ft-tall, four-ton piece was chosen by Peter Rosengard, founder and chairman of SINCE 9/11, a UK charity which teaches students about the events, causes, and consequences of 9/11.
It was treated and polished by New York artist Miya Ando before being unveiled in Battersea Park for the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Finding a permanent home for the artwork proved difficult until it settled permanently in East London in 2015.
A total of 2,977 people from over 90 countries were killed on 11 September 2001 when passenger jets hijacked by al-Qaida terrorists struck the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon in Washington DC and a field in Pennsylvania. Of those who died, 67 were from the UK.
Rosengard considers the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park a natural home for the artwork. ‘The artwork represents peace, unity, inclusion, tolerance,’ he said. ‘That’s what the Olympics were. All faiths, all religions. It’s a perfect location.’
He added that you have to see it in person to fully understand both its gravity and its ugly beauty. ‘It’s only when you touch it that you realise this used to be part of an incredible skyscraper, the heart of New York, of the world even.’
SINCE 9/11 partners with the UCL Institute of Education to promote fundamental British values and teach respect to all religions. A multi-faith, non-political charity, it aims to reduce extremism of all stripes. The artwork is part of that ethos.
Mark Camley, the park’s executive director, said: ‘Young people leaving school and going on to adult life this year are unlikely to remember that awful day. The artwork provides a focal point for engaging discussion and thought on what happened and how we can learn from that to reduce the chances of it happening again.’
The polished section of the artwork gives it new life. Like the work of SINCE 9/11, the piece is as concerned with the future as it is with the past, literally reflecting life in the city. Speaking at the artwork’s unveiling, Sir Simon Schama summarised its duality.
It is not just a kind of brutally tragic utterance made out of the debris of the World Trade Centre but there is also as you will see another aspect to the piece which is a reflection, and the reflection is of where we are now dear friends, of trains travelling past, of the great pulse of the city, the most brilliantly cosmopolitan city in the world.Sir Simon Schama
Visit the SINCE 9/11 website for more information about the artwork and their ongoing educational programme.
If you liked this piece you may be interested in the Stairway to Heaven memorial in Bethnal Green
Can you support us?
As a not-for-profit media organisation using journalism to strengthen communities, we have not put our digital content behind a paywall or membership scheme as we think the benefits of an independent, local publication should be available to everyone living in our area.
We are powered by members. Hundreds of members have already joined. Become a member today from as little as £3 to support impact journalism and the local community.