By Heather Quinlan

The Temporary Home
Hangar 17, a section of New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport used to house 9/11 artifacts, is difficult to access — even for victims' families. Sometimes, however, loved ones can arrange to visit. Judy Keane, whose husband, Richard, died in the attack, was able to do just that.

"The magnitude of the beams, you know, you walk in the door, and it just hits you. I feel a little bit as though I'm bonding with this steel, and it's part of me. You just want to touch it. I wondered how I would feel about that, and absolutely, you have to touch it," Keane told Connecticut's Channel 3 Eyewitness News.

Few people ever see this makeshift museum that holds roughly 2,000 relics, each one catalogued and cared for in the humidity-controlled space. But they will once they're displayed in the World Trade Center Museum in Lower Manhattan when it opens in 2012. The jumble of holdings includes surprisingly intact street signs, train station turnstiles and subway cars; police, fire and rescue vehicles; crosses and Stars of David made by ironworkers clearing twisted steel from the wreckage; the 400-foot (122-meter) antenna that topped the North Tower and even a pair of eyeglasses.

"The Compression" and "The Column"
One oddly shaped artifact called ""The Compression"" resembles a meteor. In reality, the object is four stories of metal crushed into just a couple feet, with materials fused together under the intense heat. It includes a stack of office paper.

"What makes this piece exceedingly extraordinary is the presumption that it may, in fact, contain human remains. And I think we will be trying to accommodate it with that level of care." Alice Greenwald, president of the World Trade Center Museum, told The New York Times.

The vast hangar is also home to ""The Last Column."" The former column from the South Tower weighs about 60 tons (54 metric tons) and stands 36 feet (11 meters) high. It was the last column removed from the site, with a ceremony resembling a funeral. It now contains handwritten messages, photographs of loved ones and scraps of missing persons' posters.

The Final Home
The project began just weeks after 9/11, when a team of architects and preservationists scoured the rubble and debris to see what could be saved for a future museum. Though there was no definite plan, they were guided by the need to preserve as much as they could, particularly items that could help tell the story of what happened.

For now, these objects are kept out of the public eye — tagged, classified and residing in the vast hangar. But soon they will have a new lives as a collective memorial to one tragic morning and a testament to the strength of the human spirit.


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