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An Urban Archive Was Lost on 9/11. This Agency Is Trying to Rebuild It.

An Urban Archive Was Lost on 9/11. This Agency Is Trying to Rebuild It.

In some cases, Port Authority workers were able to replace destroyed records with copies from outside contractors who had worked on projects as well as from the personal files of retirees and through online searches of used books.

But many items were one of a kind, like the original 1921 charter for the Port Authority and thousands of glass slides of the Hudson and Manh attan Railroad, which was later taken over by the Port Authority in a deal to get New Jersey’s approval for the World Trade Center. Then known as the Hudson Tubes, it became the PATH.


Mr. Rinaldi, 72, recalled one afternoon about a month after the attacks when he was part of an emergency response and recovery team that unearthed several cardboard boxes full of archival Port Authority photos. “We started grabbing them and putting them aside,” he said. “We were able to save many of them.”

Many former Port Authority employees have also sent in photos, books, reports and letters that they had saved from their time at the agency to help recover some of the historical record. “The Port Authority is a pretty tight-knit family,” said Mr. Doblin. “There’s a very special bond that exists.”

Mr. Kelly, who retired as the agency’s director of aviation in 1999, shipped a three-foot-wide bronze plaque of the Port Authority seal that was once on the lobby floor of an earlier agency headquarters, a massive terminal in Chelsea, which today houses Google. The seal was removed when the Port Authority moved to the World Trade Center.

Mr. Kelly, whose father worked as a mechanic for the Port Authority, was presented with the seal at a farewell party thrown by co-workers in the late 1970s when he changed jobs at the agency. “I guess they knew I was a true-blue Port Authority person,” he said.

Mr. Kelly hung the 75-pound plaque on the wall of his home den, first in New Jersey and later in Georgia. As the agency approached its centennial, Mr. Kelly decided to send the seal back. It is now displayed outside the agency’s boardroom at 4 World Trade Center.

“I know they lost a lot of treasured goods in that building along with a lot of treasured people,” he said. “I thought they should have this.”

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