By Tim Pennington, Products Finishing Magazine The sky above One World Trade Center one morning this April was as blue as the ocean waves, nary a cloud around and the sun shining as bright as ever.
The lone sound was the twin waterfalls of the National Sept. 11 Memorial, which sits within the footprint of where the Twin Towers stood before that fateful day almost 16 years ago. The waterfalls are the largest man made in North America, a sight to behold, which I finally was able to see on a trip to New York when myself and Products Finishing publisher Todd Luciano attended the Masters Association for Metal Finishing 100th anniversary dinner.
It is a solemn place where the memorials sit, next to the museum that remembers those killed both in 1993 and 2001 when terrorists attacked the U.S. People are quiet as they walk around the waterfalls, looking at the names of those who perished in both attacks, including the downing of the plane in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
People are drawn to the names inscribed in the bronze panels that form an edge around the memorial pools that were dedicated in 2011 on the 10th anniversary. Each morning, the staff of the museum and memorial insert white roses in the inscribed names of those whose birthday it would have been that day, a constant reminder that the memories live on.
Being in the finishing industry, I immediately marveled at the metallic surfaces and the craftsmanship of the metal display, built with grace and love by contractors who were selected to work on the project.
“Each contractor who worked on the memorial considered it a privilege to do so and wanted to do the best job possible in honor of those who died and served,” says David Tatham, president of Ohio-based Cleveland Black Oxide, which was one of those lucky few.
Tatham’s company got a call from KC Fabrications in Gardiner, New York, back in 2010 when the memorial was under construction, asking for help.
KC Fabrications specializes in unique art and architectural fabrication, and they were called upon to install the large bronze name parapets at the pools. In addition, they were also asked to fabricate and finish the retaining posts for the metal panels that were to be placed behind the waterfalls.
Those panels and the accompanying retaining posts are finished in black oxide and needed to withstand the harsh chemicals that could be present in the water. But during the installation process of the parapets and panels, KC Fabrications discovered that the blackened panels made from the marine-grade stainless steel were corroding, and a white residue was appearing on the surface.
KC Fabrications tried to solve the problem several times with various sources, but nothing seemed to stop the corrosion or the white spots. That’s when Cleveland Black Oxide got the call.
Tatham says it was discovered that a galvanic reaction was taking place amongst the various metals. The team at Cleveland Black Oxide then modified some chemistries to tackle the problem, and the 150 retaining posts were coated with the new finish that resisted the galvanic reaction.
KC Fabrications installed the posts in time for the grand opening of the memorial, and now millions of people each year who come to the ponds see the two waterfalls cascading majestically into the pool at the bottom, without a hint of the white residue from corrosion.
“We were proud to have been a part of the memorial,” Tatham says. “Even if only two inches of our work is showing above the water line, at least we know it’s a project well done.”
When architects Michael Arad and Peter Walker designed the twin waterfalls, they said they were inspired to produce a memorial that “resonates with the feelings of loss and absence that were generated by the destruction of the World Trade Center and the taking of thousands of lives.”
In their design statement, they say: “Standing there at the water’s edge, looking at a pool of water that is flowing away into an abyss, a visitor to the site can sense that what is beyond this parapet edge is inaccessible.”
As sad as it is to stand at what once was two towering skyscrapers, there is a shroud of hope that emanates from the sound of water falling softly to the bottom of the pool.
Staring up at the new 104-story One World Trade Center—the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere—there is a sense of awe of what was rebuilt.
The metal, concrete and glass stands for a rebirth in a place known for loss. The sadness prevails, but the hope for a better world is as noticeable as the water falling into the pool.