A Piece of Ground Zero Comes to Bethlehem

10th anniversary sculpture carved from World Trade Center concrete has temporary home at City Hall.

A unique four-ton sculpture carved from Ground Zero concrete has found a temporary home in front of City Hall in Bethlehem as the country stops to commemorate the 10th anniversary of September 11.

“Victorii Rebuild” was carved by Florida artist Sandra Priest from a four-foot thick piece of slurry wall that still protects the foundation of the 16-acre World Trade Center site – the so-called “bathtub” that keeps the Hudson River from surging into the center’s seven-story substructure.

The wall survived the terrorist attack with minor damage. Pieces of it were removed only to expand the “bathtub” to make room for a new rail transportation hub that will sit beneath the rebuilt World Trade Center.

While the intent is to find the sculpture a home in New York, its presence in Bethlehem, 85 miles west of Ground Zero, is not completely incongruous.

The concrete and aggregate that forms the World Trade Center slurry wall was originally quarried in Northampton, a borough 10 miles northwest of Bethlehem.

Another Lehigh Valley connection to the project is the late John Krapf, a builder and contractor from Northampton, who came up with the idea to turn some of the slabs into art.

Krapf worked with Impact Environmental, a New York-based engineering and environmental remediation company involved Ground Zero site restoration, to obtain 11 of the removed concrete blocks of the wall.

After Krapf died, Impact Environmental President Richard Parrish and Krapf’s widow, Kay, chose Priest – an internationally known artist who once lived in Allentown – to do the work.

Priest calls it Project11up, with a goal of placing 11 concrete relic sculptures from Ground Zero in 11 cities across the country.

The six-foot tall, 8,000-pound sculpture, which arrived in Bethlehem Friday, is the first completed work. Mayor John Callahan will officially accept the piece from the artist during a ceremony at Payrow Plaza at 2 p.m. today.

“It’s a real honor to have it here,” said Callahan, who called its arrival in Bethlehem “kismet.” The mayor stopped to admire it Friday after it was put in place in a prominent spot close to Church Street between and the .

“It is our hope that this becomes a place where residents from around the Lehigh Valley can come to pay their respects and honor those who were affected by 9/11,” Callahan said.

The piece stands about six feet tall. The base is a raw section of the four-foot thick slurry wall as it would have appeared on site, with its exposed rebar and aggregate. On top of that, a carved V-shape with a cube that sits inside.

Binary code is carved at the two apexes of the V and on two sides of the cube, representing the sites of the terrorist attack. One side of the V says “D.C” in binary code and the other says “PA.” The two sides of the cube are engraved with “N.Y.” in binary code.

Asked about the use of binary code, Priest said the 0s and 1s seemed fitting as the piece was meant to mark the 10th anniversary of a tragedy that occurred on the 11th. “Probably most of it is the subtlety of it,” she said.

The piece took about 10 months to complete, Priest said.

As the plans for the redeveloped World Trade Center and September 11 Memorial and Museum have emerged, it has become less certain that the sculpture will find a permanent home at Ground Zero, Priest said.

The Bethlehem mayor said he would be happy to keep the piece in Bethlehem permanently.

There are spaces along the city’s newly opened rails-to-trails park, the South Bethlehem Greenway, that are designed to accommodate public works of art, Callahan said.

In any case, “Victorii Rebuild” will stay at its current location for between six and 12 months, the mayor said.


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