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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial

WTC Steel Removal

The Expeditious Destruction of the Evidence at Ground Zero

Steel was the structural material of the buildings. As such it was the most important evidence to preserve in order to puzzle out how the structures held up to the impacts and fires, but then disintegrated into rubble. Since the collapse of steel-framed skyscrapers due to fires is completely unprecedented, the steel should have been subjected to detailed analysis. So what did the authorities do with this key evidence of the vast crime and unprecedented engineering failure? They recycled it!

Some 185,101 tons of structural steel have been hauled away from Ground Zero. Most of the steel has been recycled as per the city's decision to swiftly send the wreckage to salvage yards in New Jersey. The city's hasty move has outraged many victims' families who believe the steel should have been examined more thoroughly. Last month, fire experts told Congress that about 80% of the steel was scrapped without being examined because investigators did not have the authority to preserve the wreckage. 1  

The bulk of the steel was apparently shipped to China and India. The Chinese firm Baosteel purchased 50,000 tons at a rate of $120 per ton, compared to an average price of $160 paid by local mills in the previous year. 2  

Mayor Bloomberg, a former engineering major, was not concerned about the destruction of the evidence:

If you want to take a look at the construction methods and the design, that's in this day and age what computers do. Just looking at a piece of metal generally doesn't tell you anything. 3  

The pace of the steel's removal was very rapid, even in the first weeks after the attack. By September 29, 130,000 tons of debris -- most of it apparently steel -- had been removed. 4  

During the official investigation controlled by FEMA, one hundred fifty pieces of steel were saved for future study. 5   One hundred fifty pieces out of hundreds of thousands of pieces! Moreover it is not clear who made the decision to save these particular pieces. It is clear that the volunteer investigators were doing their work at the Fresh Kills dump, not at Ground Zero, so whatever steel they had access to was first picked over by the people running the cleanup operation.


Highly Sensitive Garbage

Given that the people in charge considered the steel garbage, useless to any investigation in this age of computer simulations, they certainly took pains to make sure it didn't end up anywhere other than a smelting furnace. They installed GPS locater devices on each of the trucks that was carrying loads away from Ground Zero, at a cost of $1000 each. The securitysolutions.com website has an article on the tracking system with this passage.

Ninety-nine percent of the drivers were extremely driven to do their jobs. But there were big concerns, because the loads consisted of highly sensitive material. One driver, for example, took an extended lunch break of an hour and a half. There was nothing criminal about that, but he was dismissed. 6  

Shielding Investigators From the Evidence

According to FEMA, more than 350,000 tons of steel were extracted from Ground Zero and barged or trucked to salvage yards where it was cut up for recycling. Four salvage yards were contracted to process the steel.

  • Hugo Nue Schnitzer at Fresh Kills (FK) Landfill, Staten Island, NJ
  • Hugo Nue Schnitzer's Claremont (CM) Terminal in Jersey City, NJ
  • Metal Management in Newark (NW), NJ
  • Blanford and Co. in Keasbey (KB), NJ

FEMA's BPAT, who wrote the WTC Building Performance Study, were not given access to Ground Zero. Apparently, they were not even allowed to collect steel samples from the salvage yards. According to Appendix D of the Study:

Collection and storage of steel members from the WTC site was not part of the BPS Team efforts sponsored by FEMA and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Fate of Some Steel Revealed Years Later

base of core column stored in a JFK hanger
The base of one of the Twin Towers' massive core columns stored in a hanger at JFK Airport is shown in the film Up From Zero.

Given that the removal and recycling of World Trade Center seel continued over the objections of victims' families and others seeking a genuine investigation, revelations, years later, that some of Twin Towers' steel parts were preserved comes as something of a surprise. Many of the heaviest steel pieces from the Twin Towers are stored in an 80,000-square-foot hangar at John F. Kennedy International Airport. These include some of the base sections of the Towers' massive core columns and 13 of the 153 steel trees from the bases of the Towers' perimeter walls. 7   Some of these pieces are shown in the film Up From Zero.

The hangar, which reportedly holds one five-hundredth of the "total debris field", is off-limits to the public. 8   Scott Huston, president of the Graystone Society, is attempting to obtain three of the steel trees for the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum in Coatesville, PA. 9  

The discovery of the existence of intact pieces of the Twin Towers' columns would appear to be good news for independent investigators who would like to test samples of steel. However, the locations of these pieces within the towers suggests a reason they were allowed to be preserved. The large core column sections stood on the Towers' foundations, seven stories below street level, and the perimeter column trees were from the lobby level, just above street level. Only these lower sections of the Towers were spared the blasting that shredded the steel frames down to about their fourth stories. This is evident from the facts that 18 people survived in the lower reaches of the North Tower's core, and fragments of the perimeter walls of each Tower remained standing.

Although it was believed that the last structrural steel remains had been removed from the site in May of 2003, in January of 2007, several large steel pieces were recovered in excavations of the site, below a road created during the cleanup operation. The excavation, which was commissioned to discover human remains, had already yielded nearly 300 bones. Two steel remains were described as columns, measuring about 18 feet long and weighing perhaps 60 tons, and three connected steel columns from the perimeter walls. The steel beams had apparently been buried during the cleanup operation, perhaps to stabalize the ground. Also discovered at the opposite side of the WTC site was a column which "appeared to be burned at one end", according to a person "with knowledge of the discovery". 10  

Recycled WTC Steel Used in US Warship

News stories in 2006 reported that 24 tons of steel from the World Trade Center was being used to manufacture a warship named the U.S.S. New York by Northrop Grumman in a shipyard on the banks of the Mississippi. 11   12  


1. , N.Y. Daily News, 4/16/02
2. Baosteel Will Recycle World Trade Center Debris, eastday.com, 1/24/02 [cached]
3. Baosteel Will Recycle World Trade Center Debris, china.org.cn, 1/24/02 [cached]
4. 250 Tons of Scrap Stolen From Ruins, telegraph.co.uk, 9/29/01 [cached]
5. WTC Steel Data Collection, www.fema.gov, 5/02
6. GPS on the Job in Massive World Trade Center Clean-up, securitysolutions.com, 7/1/2002 [cached]
7. Fragments of Twin Towers may return to Coatesville, DailyLocal.com, 07/24/06 [cached]
8. JFK Hangar Houses 9/11 Relics, 7online.com,
9. Twin Towers wreckage turning up all over the place, OnlineJournal.com, 8/7/06
10. WTC Steel Found Buried at Ground Zero, 1/31/07 [cached]
11. The U.S.S. New York, AmericanTribute.us, [cached]
12. Warship built out of Twin Towers wreckage, TimesOnline.co.uk, 5/22/06 [cached]

page last modified: 2013-03-21