Letters written by Helen Keller. Forty-thousand photographic negatives of John F. Kennedy taken by the president's personal cameraman. Sculptures by Alexander Calder and Auguste Rodin. The 1921 agreement that created the agency that built the World Trade Center.
Besides ending nearly 3,000 lives, destroying planes and reducing buildings to tons of rubble and ash, the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks destroyed tens of thousands of records, irreplaceable historical documents and art. [...]
The picture starts in the seven-building trade center complex. Hijackers flew jetliners into the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, which collapsed onto the rest of the complex, which included three smaller office buildings, a Marriott hotel and U.S. Customs. 7 World Trade Center, a skyscraper just north of the twin towers, collapsed that afternoon.
The trade center was home to more than 430 companies, including law firms, manufacturers and financial institutions. Twenty-one libraries were destroyed, including that of The Journal of Commerce. Dozens of federal, state and local government agencies were at the site, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Central Intelligence Agency had a clandestine office on the 25th floor of 7 World Trade Center, which also housed the city's emergency command center and an outpost of the U.S. Secret Service.
The first tangible losses beyond death were obvious, and massive.
The Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage, where more than 650 employees were killed, owned a trove of drawings and sculptures that included a cast of Rodin's "The Thinker" – which resurfaced briefly after the attacks before mysteriously disappearing again. Fragments of other sculptures also were recovered.
The Ferdinand Gallozzi Library of U.S. Customs Service in 6 World Trade Center held a collection of documents related to U.S. trade dating back to at least the 1840s. And in the same building were nearly 900,000 objects excavated from the Five Points neighborhood of lower Manhattan, a famous working-class slum of the 19th century.
The Kennedy negatives, by photographer Jacques Lowe, had been stowed away in a fireproof vault at 5 World Trade Center, a nine-story building in the complex. Helen Keller International, whose offices burned up when its building, a block from the trade center, was struck by debris, lost a modest archive. Only two books and a bust of Keller survived.
Classified and confidential documents also disappeared at the Pentagon, where American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into it on 9/11. [...]
Two weeks after the attacks, archivists and librarians gathered at New York University to discuss how to document what was lost, forming the World Trade Center Documentation Task Force. But they received only a handful of responses to survey questions about damaged or destroyed records.
"The current atmosphere of litigation, politics and overall distrust surrounding the 9/11 attacks has made information sharing and compilation a complex task," said the final 2005 report of the project.
A partial list of libraries destroyed in the attacks appeared in this September 17, 2001 article: Trade Center Attack Leaves NYC Libraries Victimized and Strained, But Responsive
Library reference directories indicate the presence of numerous libraries in the two destroyed WTC towers and nearby affected buildings.
They include, according to the American Library Directory and other sources: American Merchant Marine Library Association; Brown and Wood LLP Library; Guy Carpenter and Co. Inc.; CIBC World Markets Corp.; Council of State Governments Library, Dean Witter Reynolds; Deloitte & Touche; Empire Health Choice; Ferdinand Gallozzi Customs Library; Fiduciary Trust Research Library; Hill Betts & Nash Library; The Journal of Commerce Library; The Kompass Library; LaSalle Bank Building Law Library; Lehman Brothers; Serko & Simon Law Library; Thacher, Proffitt & Wood Law Library.