Soldier, in Bronze, Goes to Ground Zero

By Patrick McGeehan New York Times

Soldier, in Bronze

The sculpture that stood in the middle of the World Trade Center plaza when the center was destroyed cannot find a permanent home. But another big bronze that has been in New York City less than a year already has a highly visible spot at ground zero.

Commuters streaming out of the PATH train station at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday morning may have spotted the shrouded newcomer: a 16-foot-tall sculpture of a Special Operations soldier on horseback. The statue is a memorial to the troops who led the American invasion of Afghanistan in response to the September 11 attacks on the trade center and the Pentagon.

The statue, known as “De Oppresso Liber,” a motto of the Army Special Forces, was hauled to a spot near the PATH station entrance on Vesey Street on Tuesday evening. That will be its temporary home while construction at the trade center continues, said Patrick J. Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Mr. Foye said the Port Authority had agreed to provide a space for the statue at the trade center outside of the National September 11 Memorial. He added that no decision had been made about where the statue’s permanent home would be, but it is expected to stay on the trade center’s grounds.

“The installation of the horse soldier statue close to the scene of the 9/11 attacks we think is appropriate,” Mr. Foye said.

He is scheduled to attend a ceremony there on Friday, along with other political and military officials, to rededicate the statue. It was originally dedicated in November 2011 at a ceremony led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. in the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center.

At the time, the statue had been bound for nearby Zuccotti Park, but the Occupy Wall Street encampment there interrupted that plan. Instead, the statue has spent the last 11 months in the lobby of an office building in Battery Park City.

The United War Veterans Council, the group that stages the city’s annual Veterans Day parade, persuaded the Port Authority to make room for the statue at ground zero. Bill White, the former chief executive of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, represented the council and the statue’s owner, the Green Beret Foundation, in those negotiations.

That decision came amid a long-running debate about where to put the giant bronze sphere that was damaged by falling debris on September 11. The sculpture, which was created by the artist Fritz Koenig, was commissioned for the World Trade Center. After surviving the collapse of the twin towers, the battered sphere was moved to Battery Park. But it is scheduled to be removed this fall.

Some relatives of people who died on September 11 have called for the sphere to be returned to ground zero. But the operators of the memorial there have resisted. And Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the chairman of the memorial foundation, has said the damaged sphere looks beautiful where it is now.

Mr. Foye said that he did not expect any criticism from those who want the sphere returned to ground zero and suggested that the trade center site could accommodate both sculptures. Mr. White said he had received support from families of September 11 victims for the placement of the horse soldier statue and added that the costs of moving and maintaining the artwork would be borne by the veterans council and would not fall on taxpayers.

Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland, the deputy commander of the United States Special Operations Command, said that he planned to attend the ceremony on Friday and that he believed ground zero was a fitting location for a memorial to the soldiers killed in Afghanistan as well as all of the other Americans who died responding to the September 11 attacks.

A small group of Special Forces soldiers rode horses across the rocky terrain of northern Afghanistan alongside operatives from the Central Intelligence Agency and members of the anti-Taliban coalition known as the Northern Alliance. The soldiers helped guide air attacks on Taliban positions and captured hundreds of enemy fighters, including John Walker Lindh, an American who had joined the Taliban.

Julie Menin, a member of Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan and of the board of the September 11 memorial, said she had heard no criticism of the placement of the horse soldier statue.

“But I do hope that it will serve as an impetus to getting the situation regarding the sphere resolved once and for all,” Ms. Menin said. “The sphere really is in limbo and no one is really sure where it will go.”

A version of this article appeared in print on 10/18/2012, on page A31 of the New York edition with the headline: Soldier, in Bronze, Goes to Ground Zero.

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