Honoring the man behind the slurry wall that limited the destruction of 9/11

|  September 11, 2013 |

Credit: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

A portion of the slurry wall that limited destruction after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11. Credit: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

“The wall held.”

Three paragraphs in to the New York Times profile of Arturo Lamberto Ressi di Cervia and we already have goosebumps. On the 12th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, it’s important to remember those we lost, but also to honor people like Mr. Ressi whose work prevented even further death and destruction.

Ressi supervised the construction of the slurry wall around the World Trade Center in the 1960s. He passed away last month at the age of 72 and it’s very likely that his greatest professional accomplishment was that slurry wall. The wall that held up despite the collapse of the Trade Center towers on September 11th, 2001 and the resulting pressure from the surrounding water table.

How important was that wall? George J. Tamaro, a former staff engineer at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who was closely involved with the construction of the trade center, told the Times that the wall “may have helped prevent the Hudson River from flooding parts of Lower Manhattan”

The article goes on to say that the wall’s original purpose was to allow excavation for the construction of the towers. Much of the site “was on spongy landfill dating to the 18th century. And conventional foundation wall construction was ruled out because of the many underground obstacles, from ships’ ballast to (subway) tubes.”

The importance of the wall and Ressi’s work have been talked about quite a bit since 2001. In 2002, Ressi said, “I promise you, I never thought I would have seen that wall again in my life.”

And millions more will see it beginning next year, as a portion of the wall was deliberately left exposed in the Foundation Hall of the National September 11 Memorial Museum. Be sure to read the full profile of Ressi here.

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