On the trail of New York’s lost Teardrop: John Craven tracks down a forgotten monument to the 9/11 victims
By John Craven
Published: 12:00 EST, 19 November 2012 | Updated: 13:00 EST, 19 November 2012
About 50 million people visit New York every year and more than eight million live there but no one seems to have heard of The Teardrop…which is odd because it is a 100ft tall, 175-ton memorial to those who died on the city’s blackest day.
Learning of its existence by chance, I tried to discover more from locals at Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre stood until September 11, 2001, and was met with blank expressions.
The one person who did know was an official guide but he said: ‘I bet 99 per cent of New Yorkers haven’t a clue where it is.’
Our search began at the World Trade Centre station, where a train took us to Exchange Place in New Jersey. From then on, instructions were vague – we had to catch a light-railway tram for eight stops along the Jersey shoreline to 34th Street in Bayonne and ask around.
Eventually someone walked by and kindly offered to call a local taxi firm on his mobile. He’d never heard of The Teardrop but luckily the taxi driver had. He drove us two miles across a wasteland which was once an army base until we came to an isolated quay.
And there, high on a mound, stood the monument – a massive bronze-clad block with a great gash down the middle into which is suspended a 40ft, four-ton shiny nickel teardrop.
In the far distance were the skyscrapers of Manhattan. Around the base of The Teardrop were the names of all those who died on 9/11 – including 26 Russians.
In fact the monument was a gift – an expression of grief – from the people of Russia to the US and officially named ‘To the struggle against world terrorism’. Vladimir Putin was there when construction began and Bill Clinton attended the dedication ceremony in 2006. Since then, it has been forgotten.
‘Nobody ever comes here,’ said the taxi driver. Indeed, we were the only visitors. Surely it hadn’t been snubbed because it was from an old enemy?
I did some research and found that its designer, Zurab Tsereteli – one of Russia’s leading sculptors – went to Ground Zero after the attack. He was told boats and ferries had shuttled survivors across to New Jersey, where many of the victims had lived. Learning that, he wanted his statue to be on the remote waterfront there with Manhattan as the backdrop.
So the explanation for the anonymity of this most touching tribute is probably no more sinister than: out of sight, out of mind – and that needs remedying.
My Teardrop quest happened during my first visit to the Big Apple since 9/11 and the city seemed a less aggressive place, though still full of new surprises. We walked through one of them, the High Line, which meanders for a mile on the West side. It was once an overhead freight line and now it’s full of flower beds and trees.
We stayed at the Soho Grand on West Broadway. It reflects the way the neighborhood has been transformed from gritty industrial to tasteful, upmarket chic.
Our room had a splendid view across to the Empire State and my favourite skyscraper, the Chrysler Building. Until, that is, the last morning when it was blanked out by an unexpected blizzard.
That’s the thing about New York – it never lets you down with its surprises. The Teardrop was the major one this time.
As I stood next to this enigmatic landmark I was struck by the thought that when passengers sail into Manhattan the first monument they now pass is not the Statue of Liberty but The Teardrop. And none of them will know what it is for.
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