By Larry Higgs Asbury Park Press
The iconic Koening Sphere might return to the World Trade Center site, near the One World Trade Center tower, as an alternative to putting it back where it had been located on the plaza between the former Twin Towers.
The 22-ton bronze sphere, which survived the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, is temporarily located in Battery Park — a site it is likely to lose because of an ongoing restoration there.
Michael Burke, brother of a city firefighter who died in the attacks, has lobbied to have the sphere returned to the Trade Center site, where it stood in Austin Tobin Plaza between the towers.
Burke, of the Bronx — whose brother, Capt. William Burke of Engine 21, was killed rescuing people in the towers — suggested to the Port Authority in June that returning the sphere to the site could have been the centerpiece of this year’s commemoration, since the 9/11 museum will not be open in time.
Burke’s idea to return the sphere to the Trade Center site was endorsed by Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye.
He said Foye proposed the alternative location on the site during a meeting they had, after Burke spoke at the June Port Authority board meeting.
“He said an alternative might be next to One World Trade Center. I said, ‘That works for me,’ ” Burke said. “He said he’d look at that and the idea of returning it to the memorial plaza where it was.”
Port Authority officials declined to confirm or deny that Foye made the proposal. Spokesman Steve Coleman referred to remarks he made in June, supporting relocating the sphere to the memorial plaza, as the agency’s comment on the issue.
The battered bronze sphere was designed by artist Fritz Koening. Burke and Port Authority officials said members of the memorial foundation didn’t want the sphere back on the World Trade Center grounds, because it “infringes on the integrity of the memorial.”
Burke and other families of 9/11 victims argue that the memorial site is devoid of any reminders of the terrorist attacks, and that the sphere is a positive symbol of survival.
“People made their opinions clear: The public has called for the return of artifacts to the memorial plaza to tell the story,” Burke said.
He cited the park-like setting of the memorial plaza as the reason for complaints that have surfaced that people don’t treat it with with reverence.
“They (the foundation) were headstrong in making sure there were no reminders, no history of 9/11 on the site. Now they have problems with people treating the site like a tourist plaza,” he said. “This is what you gave them, and the audience is not responding. The sphere would go a long way to helping that.”
Burke said he has 7,200 signatures on an online petition on his website and “Save the Sphere” Facebook page.Michael Burke’s “Save the Sphere” Facebook page