David Shayt
September 11 Collecting Curator
Museum Specialist, Division of Cultural History

"... a crashing crescendo of sound—smashing steel into these barges..."
I moved from the site itself to the areas of disposition—the places things were taken to. My first visit to Ground Zero, the World Trade Center site, I left passing West Street, watching barges being loaded by huge bucket cranes, in a crashing crescendo of sound—smashing steel into the bottoms of these vast barges for their trip across the Hudson River to the scrap yards.

I knew I had to visit the scrap yards and also the Staten Island recovery site, known as Fresh Kills. Those were two logical places for artifacts, not drawing the line between clean and dirty, important or unimportant, large or small, but just looking, and talking and photographing, and maybe collecting at the time.

One thing I have discovered is that when you see something you'd like to collect, you try to collect it at that moment. You don't say "we'll get back to you," or "we'll wait to hear from you," or "I'll bring a truck next time," or "I've got to go now." Too many cases like that have occurred when you come back and it's gone, or it's been gold-plated, or pieces are missing.