At Ground Zero in New York City: Memorial and museum bear witness to attacks of September 11, 2001

In Foundation Hall, the “Last Column,” showing unit numbers of first responders, messages, pictures of the missing and other ephemera, was the final piece of wreckage cleared from the World Trade Center site in late May 2002. The column was one of 47 from the inner core of the South Tower that supported the structure. The hall covers 15,000 square feet of space.

By Betty Gordon 

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

On the crisp winter morning of February 17, 2018, a precisely cut 2-inch stem of a white rose extended from the letter “M” of Simon Marash Dedvukaj’s middle name on the stencil-cut parapet of panel N-64 of the North Memorial Pool at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.  

Dedvukaj, a native of the Bronx, New York, and of Albanian heritage, would have turned 43 years old on this sunny day when I was visiting New York, had he survived the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan 17 years earlier. (I did not know or have any connection to Mr. Dedvukaj or his family.)

A white rose, indicating the anniversary of the birth of Simon Marash Dedvukaj on February 17, 1975, peeks out from his name on panel N-64 of the North Memorial Pool at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. The wavy building in the background where all the people are queuing is the museum.

But at 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001, Dedvukaj, a janitorial foreman for ABM Industries, was at work between the 93rd and 95th floors when hijacked American Airlines Flight 11, which had taken off from Boston en route to Los Angeles, crashed into the 110-story North Tower between floors 93 and 99. 

Seventeen minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175, also en route from Boston to L.A., flew into the South Tower between floors 77 and 85.

At 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77, which had departed from Dulles International Airport in Virginia, also scheduled to land in L.A., hurled into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, United Flight 93, heading from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco, California, was also under the control of terrorists. As many as 37 calls were made from the Boeing 757,  and these frightened travelers were aware that something had happened in New York. After some heroic passengers and crew stormed the cockpit, the plane rammed into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

Dedvukaj was 26 years old. He was looking forward to celebrating his first wedding anniversary with his wife, Elizabeta, in October. 

Instead, he was one of 2,753 who died at the World Trade Center. At the Pentagon, 184 died, as did the 40 people in Pennsylvania.

All of their names, representing 93 countries, and those of the six who died in the February 26, 1993 terrorist-linked van explosion in the underground parking garage at the WTC, are similarly honored with a rose on the anniversary of the day of their birth, placed by their name by volunteers at the memorial site, a custom that began in 2013.

The outdoor memorial, which opened on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, occupies eight acres of the original 16-acre site. Situated among a grove of 400 swamp white oak trees are two almost-acre-square reflecting pools, occupying terrain within the original footprints of the North and South towers.

The people who died on Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon are inscribed on the bronze parapets of the South Memorial Pool, next to the names of victims on the ground at the Pentagon.

The pools feature 30-foot waterfalls on each side, and are flanked by bronze panels bearing the 2,983 names that will be read aloud Tuesday morning as part of the annual memorial service.

Plaza Architects Michael Arad and Peter Walker and Partners envisioned these eco-friendly features as symbols of hope and renewal.

ABM Industries, with 800 janitorial, engineering and lighting employees performing maintenance on the WTC, lost 17 employees on 9/11. Dedvukaj’s name on the North memorial pool is surrounded by 12 co-workers. The other four names are on the South Tower memorial pool.

The majority of the 110,000-square-foot museum, which opened on May 21, 2014, is seven stories below the memorial, built into the bedrock foundation of the WTC. 

Near the museum entrance are two steel tridents salvaged from the east facade of the North Tower. The bottom sections were welded to columns in the bedrock 70 feet below street level. The tridents, manufactured at Lukens Steel Company in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, branched out at the fifth story.

Standing in the atrium at the street-level entrance are two 70-foot-tall steel tridents from the east facade of the North Tower. 

The Survivor Stairs, from the northern side of the WTC’s Austin J. Tobin Plaza, were a way out to the Vesey Street sidewalk. The staircase was relatively intact after the terrorist attacks, and much of the damage was inflicted in the cleanup at the site. 

Visitors follow a descending, 70-foot-long ramp, past the Survivor Stairs — a damaged concrete-and-granite flight that led to life for many fleeing the disaster —  to Foundation Hall, in the center of which is what has become known as the “Last Column,” the final support structure removed from Ground Zero at the end of May 2002, when 1.8 tons of debris had been cleared from the site.

This is a portion of the slurry wall, also in Foundation Hall seven stories below ground, near the Last Column. A retaining wall, it’s original purpose was to hold back the Hudson River when the WTC was first excavated.

The 36-foot-tall column is covered with police and fire department unit numbers and missing persons posters, including snapshots of first responders lost in the chaos.

Be prepared for an emotional wallop while touring the September 11, 2001 historical exhibition mounted in what was the North Tower. A thorough examination of the artifacts and information is likely to take up to three hours or more. (If the experience becomes overwhelming, museum-goers can exit as needed, but once out of the building, re-entry isn’t permitted on the same ticket.)

This installation in Memorial Hall is called “Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning” by artist Spencer Finch. No two of the 2,983 watercolor squares are the same shade of blue. The quote from the Roman poet Virgil comes from Book IX of “The Aeneid.” Each of the letters in the quote is comprised of recovered steel from the WTC and was forged by blacksmith Tom Joyce of New Mexico.

A comprehensive retelling of that sky-blue, perfect late-summer morning unfolds, explained through photographs, video and audio clips, interactive kiosks and eyewitness accounts, putting into context the before, during, and after of the events. 

A 19.8-foot segment of twisted steel was part of the 360-foot-tall radio and television antenna that stood atop the North Tower sending signals since 1980. Its transmissions were interrupted when Flight 11 hit the North Tower.

Thousands of objects, large and small, burn new images into the memory of every soul who already has a vivid picture of where he or she was when the twin towers were struck, became roaring jet fuel-fed infernos and finally collapsed into ash heaps of smoking, lung-damaging wreckage. 

Myriad personal effects evoke the further heartbreak of everyday lives lost, illustrated through ordinary items such as dust-covered shoes and clothing, shattered eyeglasses, ragged identification cards and scratched jewelry. 

On the industrial end, the scorched FDNY Engine 21 is dreadful evidence of the raging fires, while the 19.8-foot twisted steel fragment of a once 360-foot-tall antenna that had stood atop the North Tower broadcasting TV signals since 1980 attests to the site’s utter destruction.

The New York City skyline today, with 1 World Trade Center’s tower being the dominant building. This was taken from across the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey. 1 WTC is 1,776 feet tall, and has 104 floors. Its groundbreaking ceremony was in April 2006, and opened for business in November 2014.

Other exhibits include “Rebirth at Ground Zero,” an 11-minute film featuring interviews and time-lapse photography about the revival of the site; and “In Memoriam,” showcasing photographs of everyone who died and an opportunity to learn more about each individual.

Aside from the continuous audio clips, the expansive space was respectfully quiet, as if visitors were unconsciously unified in understanding the level of solemnity required.

At 8:40 a.m. Tuesday, the live broadcast of the ceremony from Ground Zero will be streaming on the memorial and museum website. 

From 3 p.m. to midnight, the blue Tribute in Light, an art installation beaming four miles skyward and mimicking the shape of the twin towers, will be illuminated as it has been in past years.

The Pentagon and Pennsylvania sites will also mark today’s anniversary.

Simon Marash Dedvukaj’s family set up a foundation in his name, dedicated to helping and empowering children through scholarships, recreational sports and religious activities. See

Quick reference: National September 11 Memorial & Museum: memorial, 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; museum, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. To mark the 17th anniversary, the memorial and museum will be closed Tuesday. Only the memorial will reopen at 3 p.m. Free to visit the outdoor memorial. See the website for museum ticket purchase information; some options include separate guided tours of the memorial and museum. Tickets can be purchased online up to six months in advance, and are time- and date-specific. Adult admission for museum only, $24. Tip: Several ticket kiosks are around the left side of the building as you face it, if you haven’t purchased online. Photography is not allowed in some exhibits. 180 Greenwich Street, New York, New York. The website is excellent, for pre- and post-trip information:


A braided loaf of bread says a special ‘welcome’ to your table

One recipe for egg bread can produce braided loaves of varying sizes. Port wine sea salt is the topping on three of the loaves.  The colorful ceramic bowl the loaves are resting in I bought in Selçuk, Turkey. 

By Betty Gordon

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

Of all the elements that go into a meal, nothing says simple elegance like a braided loaf of bread.

Without too much effort, interlacing strands of dough into a pattern elevates the ordinary into the memorable.

Loaves can be large or small, a foot or more in length, coiled into a rising tower or  plaited like a wreath.

They can be plain, or have a savory or sweet filling. 

And they are a treasured part of many holiday observances the world over.

Braided bread can also contain something symbolic, such as a hard-cooked whole egg, dyed bright red, used in the Greek Orthodox tradition at Easter time. The egg represents the blood and resurrection of Christ.

I usually make two loaves of challah in equal size, like the center loaf, from this recipe, but wanted to show its versatility.  This is just after braiding. I put three loaves on a second baking sheet to accommodate the second rise (see photo below).

On Jewish Sabbath tables, and at most religious observances, the braided loaf known as challah is present.

In Hungarian cuisine, the bread is called kalács, and like challah, can feature a braid made from three, four or six strands. It all depends on the whim of the baker — and his/her dexterity and experience.

There are many versions of egg bread recipes, though they generally have in common butter, eggs, milk and sugar for richness, in addition to yeast, flour and salt. This yields a pliable, silky dough that’s easy to work with.

Eastern European bakers add vanilla and raisins to the basic ingredients in their loaves, known as paska.

In Italian Easter bread, orange and anise can often be found. 

Small slices make perfect snacks, spread with fruit-fill jam or your topping of choice.  

The crumb is denser than other breads. A small slice is sturdy enough to serve as a base for your favorite spread, be it a fruit-filled jam, pâté or even caviar. 

The bread is also wonderful to use in making french toast. It serves as the base for the Artichoke and Mushroom Bread Pudding that I wrote about in my November 23, 2016 post.

Do not be intimidated by the braiding. If you are new to the technique, I would suggest practicing with some string or yarn first, until you are confident enough to move on to dough. 

But even then, don’t be alarmed. If you mess up, just reverse the process and start over. The dough is forgiving enough that you can even revert to the balled stage and begin again. 

Below is a dairy-less recipe that I’ve made many times in my bread machine. But you can certainly substitute milk for the water and butter for margarine. The more eggs and butter used, the richer the bread will be (and the calorie and fat content, too). Or use your favorite recipe, of course.

I’ve also included how to make the dough if you don’t have a bread machine and prefer to do it by hand anyway.

The loaves freeze well. Just make sure they are completely cool before double- wrapping in aluminum foil and sealing them in a plastic bag.


After the second rise, an egg wash is applied all over the loaves, except for the bottom. This is also the time to sprinkle on sesame seeds, poppy seeds or sea salt flakes, if using. Then pop the baking sheets into the oven.

Bread Machine Challah

Hands on: 30 minutes

Total time: About 2.5 to 3 hours, including rising (longer if you execute the recipe manually)

Makes: Two 3/4-pound loaves 

Put the ingredients in your bread machine according to the manufacturer’s directions. Mine specifies all the wet ingredients first, so that’s the way I’ve listed them here. 

You can also divide the dough into smaller amounts and make smaller loaves or dinner rolls. In that case, reduce the baking time to about 15 to 20 minutes. 

For the dough: 

3/4 cup water (or milk)

1 large egg

3 cups bread flour

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 tablespoons margarine (or butter), cut in small cubes

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

For the egg wash:

1 large egg

1 tablespoon water

Poppy seeds, sesame seeds or salt flakes for topping, optional

To make the dough: Place water, egg, bread flour, salt, sugar, margarine and yeast in the pan of the bread machine. Place pan in the machine and select the dough cycle. I use the “quick dough” cycle, which runs about 40 minutes and includes the first rise. Your machine may vary.

When the cycle is finished, remove dough from machine to a lightly floured surface. The dough should not be too sticky, but if it is, knead in a little flour until it is easier to work with. Cut dough into 2 balls of equal size. Cover one and set it aside while you work with the first.

To make a braid: Gently flatten the dough into a small rectangle. Cut into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope, about 12 inches in length. Try to make them as even as possible. To make an easier transfer to the baking sheet, I do this step on parchment paper.

The pieces may retract, which is the gluten saying it needs a little rest. So you may have to reroll each length as the gluten relaxes.

Place the 3 ropes side-by-side-by-side. Pinch the tops of the pieces together, and flare them a bit into a three-legged upside-down “V” shape. 

Starting with the left leg, bring it over the center leg and rest it next to the right leg. Take the right leg over the new center leg and rest it next to the left leg. Take the left leg over the new center, then the right leg over the center. Repeat until the end. Pinch the ends together and tuck under loaf.

Repeat with second ball of dough. Place braided loaves on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Cover loaves with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour, or until double in size. Tip: I turn on my gas oven on “warm” for about 2 minutes, and turn it off. Then I put my loaves in the oven to proof.

To bake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, whisk together egg with 1 tablespoon of water. With a pastry brush, gently cover the loaves with the mixture. You do not want to deflate them by pressing too hard. I find that brushing up from the bottom toward the center works best. Make sure you cover the creases where the braid meets. 

Port wine sea salt enhances the flavor for these smaller loaves, which only bake for about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle on sesame seeds, poppy seeds or sea salt flakes, if using.

For full-size loaves, bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the bread is a deep golden brown. (Bake smaller loaves about 15 minutes.) If the loaves are browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil after the first 15 minutes. Also rotate baking sheets from top to bottom oven racks and from front to back for even browning.

When baked, the loaves should have a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. 

Place in a plastic bag if not serving immediately. 

To make the bread without a machine:

In a small bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon sugar and yeast in 3/4 cup water that’s 105 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit (anything warmer will kill the yeast). Let rest about 5 minutes, in which time it should become frothy. If it doesn’t foam, then the yeast is dead. Start over.

Meanwhile, melt the margarine (I do this in the microwave) and set aside to cool. In another small bowl, gently whisk the egg. Set aside.

In a large bowl, place flour, salt and remaining 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Mix together to incorporate, then make a well in the center. 

Pour yeast-water mixture, cooled margarine and egg into the well. Combine flour into the liquids until the ingredients form a ball.  

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead by hand, adding a little flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic. This should take about 12 minutes.

Oil or grease a large bowl. Place dough in bowl, and turn it all around to coat. Cover bowl with damp towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in size, about 1 hour. If you poke the dough and a mark remains, the dough is ready.

Punch down and remove to lightly floured surface. Knead briefly until dough is shiny, about 2 minutes.

Divide the dough and proceed with directions to braid. Allow 1 hour for the second rise and bake as above. 

Adapted from “Fast and Festive Meals for the Jewish Holidays: Complete Menus, Rituals, and Party-Planning Ideas for Every Holiday of the Year” by Marlene Sorosky in collaboration with Joanne Neuman and Debbie Shahvar (William Morrow and Co., 1997, $27)