Survivors' Staircase

The Survivors' Staircase was the last visible remaining original structure above ground level at the World Trade Center site. It was originally an outdoor flight of granite-clad stairs and two escalators which connected Vesey Street to the World Trade Center's Austin J. Tobin Plaza.[1] During the September 11 attacks, the stairs served as an escape route for hundreds of evacuees from 5 World Trade Center, a 9-floor building adjacent to the 110-story towers. The staircase is now an important feature of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

The Survivors' Staircase in the National September 11 Museum (2015)


The granite and concrete staircase consists of thirty-seven steps that once connected the outdoor plaza outside of the twin towers down to the street below. Prior to the attacks it had weighted 175 tons and stood 22 feet high, by the time it was moved in 2008 the staircase weighed 65-tons.[2][3]

After the collapse of the towers, the structure compromised of some remaining Vesey Street structure, including a fragment of the terrazzo paving from the Tobin Plaza, space for the escalators and an entrance to the Cortlandt Street station for the No. 1 subway line. Steps sixteen and seventeen were basically demolished by debris as well as the chrome railings.[4][1]

Preservation effortsEdit

The preservation of the staircase became a matter of dispute since May 11, 2006, when it was listed as one of America's Most Endangered Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.[5]

The stairs occupied part of the site of a new office building which the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was contractually obliged to clear before the site was turned over to developer Larry Silverstein of Silverstein Properties, who in turn has a contractual obligation to develop the site as the 200 Greenwich Street office building, which is also referenced as "Tower 2" in the master plan.

Survivors Staircase c.2008

The World Trade Center Survivors' Network urged the Port Authority and Silverstein to make a commitment to preserve the stairs, but neither made a public decision on the issue. Meanwhile, the already heavily damaged stairs continued to deteriorate due to the heavy vibrations caused by construction of the permanent PATH station, the World Trade Center Memorial and 1 World Trade Center on the site.

In January 2007, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), according to Real Estate Weekly, rejected a plan proposed by structural engineer Robert Silman, who functioned as an independent consultant, to move the staircase in its entirety. Silman estimated the move would cost somewhere between $500,000 and $700,000 to complete. Those supporting dismantling the staircase claimed such a procedure would cost over $2 million.[6]

Installation in museumEdit

Survivors Staircase installed in the museum c.2017

In early August 2007, Avi Schick, Governor Eliot Spitzer's redevelopment chief, outlined plans to remove the stairs from their concrete structure for eventual use in the World Trade Center Memorial museum. All 38 steps would be inlaid into the side of the staircase leading from the visitor's center to the underground museum.[7] Confirming earlier plans, the LMDC announced on October 31, 2007 that the stairs would be removed and preserved, and would be restored in the future at a location inside the World Trade Center Memorial museum with a display explaining their significance.[8]

On March 9, 2008, the Staircase was moved by crane about 200 feet (60 m) on Vesey Street.[9] In 2010, as construction throughout the World Trade complex reached peak activity level, the staircase – as well as two "tridents" of Twin Tower facade, and other oversize artifacts – was placed into the National September 11 Memorial & Museum space before the Memorial Plaza and museum entrance pavilion were built above it. The staircase is now a major feature of the museum.


In some articles the staircase has been compared to national monuments in the United States such as the sunken battleship USS Arizona and the memorial to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It has also been heavily linked to survivors shared experiences of the attacks and evacuation due to the high number of individuals who utilized the staircase.[4]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Dunlap, David W. (2008-01-17). "Extracting Survivors' Stairway for a Home at the 9/11 Museum". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-04-14.
  2. ^ "Crews to move 9/11 survivors staircase". NBC News. March 6, 2008. Retrieved 2022-04-14.
  3. ^ O'Connor, Lona (April 1, 2012). "2 friends exit World Trade Center on 9/11 via survivors' stairs". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 2022-04-14.
  4. ^ a b Hornig, Frank (2006-09-11). "Surviving 9/11: Stairway from Hell". Der Spiegel. ISSN 2195-1349. Retrieved 2022-04-14.
  5. ^ Dunlap, David W. (2006-05-11). "Ground Zero Staircase Is Put on List of Most Endangered Sites". New York Times. p. B2.
  6. ^ Wolffe, Danielle (2007-01-24). "WTC staircase plan slammed". Real Estate Weekly.
  7. ^ Dunlap, David W (2007-08-06). "Stairs to Remain Intact in Ground Zero Plan". New York Times.
  8. ^ "Final Mitigation Plan for Adverse Effects on the Vesey Street Stair Remnant Pursuant to the World Trade Center Memorial and Redevelopment Plan Programmatic Agreement". Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (Renew New York).
  9. ^ World Trade Center Staircase Moved, retrieved 2022-04-14

External linksEdit

External media
  The staircase before 9/11
  The staircase several days after 9/11
  The staircase in 2006
  The staircase in the National 9/11 Museum
  History Channel documentary: The Miracle of Stairway B

  Media related to Survivors' Staircase at Wikimedia Commons