The Gates: remembering 9-11

September 10, 2003
By: Vicki Bell

Two years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, most people's lives have returned to some degree of normalcy, but what happened on that day will never be forgotten. For one metal sculptor, remembering has become a crusade to create from steel salvaged from the World Trade Center a lasting memorial of the tragic event and the resilience of the human spirit.

The Tragedy

The terrorist attacks changed the landscape of the U.S. and forever altered the collective conscious. Both U.S. citizens and citizens of many other nations perished in a land that seemed immune to the vicious, relentless acts of terrorism that plague many countries. Many public tributes were held, and each individual carried his or her private sorrow, either for loved ones lost or for those who lost loved ones-and for a country brutally awakened to the knowledge that it canhappen here.

Constructed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the early 70s, the World Trade Center (WTC) towers were tube buildings. Tube buildings derive their strength from closely spaced columns and beams in the outer walls that form a steel tube. Together with an internal steel core, they are designed to withstand the immense wind loads that affect tall buildings.

With foundations that extended 70 ft. below ground, the towers also were designed to withstand being struck by an airplane. What happened is that the resultant fires weakened the building's infrastructure, causing the upper floors to collapse and creating a load too heavy for the lower floors to bear.

Among the Ashes

Amidst the ruins of what once were the tallest buildings in New York City and the 5th and 6th tallest buildings in the world were 200,000 tons of steel. Some of the salvaged steel was shipped to recyclers around the world. Some was sent to a shipyard in Mississippi for use in building the USS New York, a warship named in honor of those who perished in the attacks.

Metal Management Northeast, Newark, N.J., sold about 500 tons of the steel to a company in Statesboro, Ga., that produced and sold commemorative medallions made of 25 percent WTC steel. Victim's families were upset that a company would attempt to profit from the tragedy. As a result, Metal Management became more selective in determining who could purchase the steel. Enter Jim Gallucci.

An Idea

Like many people in the aftermath of 9-11, Gallucci, a Greensboro, N.C., metal sculptor, wanted to help in some way. His first inclination was to help cut steel, but his services weren't needed. Then he decided to use his metalworking talents to create The Gates, a sculpture incorporating steel from the WTC in remembrance of those who perished.

To secure the steel, Jim talked to scrap dealers, including Metal Management. At the company's request, he submitted a proposal, rsum, and reference letters. The company approved his project under three conditions: the steel could not be sold in any shape or form; no one could profit from the project; and the sculpture must return to New York after visiting other cities. Agreeing to the terms, Gallucci and his team traveled to New Jersey, selected 16 tons of steel, and transported it back to his Greensboro studio.

Jim Gallucci, Photo by Abigail Seymour

Seeing the steel for the first time, Gallucci was awestruck. "I went up with one design. I had no idea of the magnitude of the steel and was dumbfounded. I realized that my original design had to be scrapped. The material looked completely different from what I had imagined. I wanted to make sure that 100 years from now, someone would recognize the WTC steel in the sculpture as being found only in the WTC."

Photo by Abigail Seymour

The steel that Gallucci saw had a dull, cold gray appearance from the ash and debris. After the ash and debris were removed, the burned sections of steel appeared rusty and the sections that crashed and did not burn still bore primer. Gallucci isn't altering the shape or appearance of the WTC steel but is preserving it with linseed oil. It remains as he found it, damaged and disfigured, but still intact, much like the human spirit. He is galvanizing the 60 tons of new steel used in the sculpture and dulling the finish to duplicate the cold, gray look of the WTC steel immediately following the disaster.

The Sculpture

When finished, the sculpture will include two gates, one 23 ft. high and the other 52 ft., one for each tower. Gates symbolize passage-a physical, emotional, and spiritual movement from one space or consciousness to another. Individually and collectively, Sept. 11 was an important passage for mankind.

The Gates

Arching steel beams of the gates vault -- as viligent protectors -- toward a central gate composed of panels that honor those who lost their lives in the disaster. The sculpture incorporates elements that symbolize the Pennsylvania plane crash and the Pentagon attack. It also includes Pages of Expression -- 8in. by 12 in. bronze metal pages with individual thoughts, comments, prayers, and poems created by the general public—and Portraits of Grief-contour line drawings that symbolize the people lost in the attacks, such as janitors, waiters, administrative assistants, CEOs, and accountants. The line drawings are made into -in. steel rod outlines that are an integral part of the sculpture.

The Process

A team made up of Gallucci and six other artists are assembling the sculpture in Gallucci's studio yard. Among the processes being used are GMAW -- using a 300 amp. Miller XMT and .045 wire-rolling, and press brake work.

The Pages of Expression are etched and mechanically fastened. Other fabricating shops will be used to create the Portraits of Grief. Any shop that wishes to participate should contact Gallucci.

Phase 1, the smaller of the two gates, has been completed. Funds are still needed to complete Phase 2. The public is encouraged to contribute Pages of Expressionand artists are needed to complete the Portraits of Grief.


For Gallucci, the project has been a mystical journey. It came at a time in his life when he was ready to handle something of this magnitude. Everything that he'd done for the last 25 years came together in a pinnacle. In addition to his metalworking skills, his experience in marketing, working with nonprofits, fundraising, and accounting helped him organize a nonprofit group to oversee the project, the 9-11 Sculpture Project, Ltd., currently organized as a component fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro.

Also a Monument to Steel

According to Gallucci, "The WTC towers were really about steel and fabricating. As mammoth a project as it was, it really came down to the microscopic elements of creating the building, such as welding." When looking at the steel beams, Gallucci observed that the welds held. "The bolts sheared before the welds gave."

"The WTC was erected during the golden age of steel -- the 60s and 70s. With this project, we're resurrecting steel, which still is the core of our society."

Editor's Note: Phase 1 currently is touring the country. It's on display in Redhook, N.Y., until Sept. 30 as part of an effort to raise money to educate the children of 9-11 victims. It next travels to Syracuse, N.Y. If you would like to have the memorial appear in your city, contact Jim Gallucci, 336-370-9001. There is a fee for transporting the sculpture.

Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209