After the 9/11 attacks, Fritz Koenig's "Sphere for Plaza Fountain" became one of the city's most significant memorials to the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives that day.
The sculpture, 25 feet tall and weighing 45,000 pounds, was placed beneath the twin towers in 1968.
A little over 30 years later, it survived the towers' collapse relatively intact. As first responders cleared rubble, digging for survivors and bodies, the Sphere became a source of hope and strength.
The fact that it was originally sculpted as a symbol of world peace made the Sphere's endurance a poignant symbol of resilience after a horrific act of terror.
"It survived, out of all the things, it survived," Michael Burke told The Huffington Post. Burke's brother, Capt. William F. Burke Jr. of Engine Company 21, was killed on 9/11. "That's symbolic. It's a message that we want to convey to future generations. Hope, faith and the enduring values that overcome intolerance."
The Sphere was eventually relocated to Battery Park in lower Manhattan. On the first anniversary of the attacks, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, along with representatives from 90 other nations across the world, held a ceremony there to honor those who were lost. The leaders lit an "eternal flame" at the base of the sculpture.
Bloomberg called the Sphere a "stirring tribute to the courage of those we lost and a symbol of the resiliency of the American spirit."
A decade later, the future of the Sphere is uncertain. A planned renovation of Battery Park makes no space for the Sphere, and the National September 11th Memorial and Museum Foundation, led by Mayor Blooomberg, does not plan to include the Sphere in the official Memorial, which opened last year on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Burke, who is leading a campaign to move the sculpture back to its original home, said he has been rebuffed by 9/11 Memorial officials.
According to The Newark Star Ledger, "the foundation’s president, Joe Daniels, told [Burke] the sphere would compromise 'the integrity' of the memorial plaza’s spare, tranquil design, which is highlighted by two sunken waterfalls that cascade down into reflecting pools occupying the footprints of the original twin towers."
Burke also said that he was told by Michael Arad, the designer of the Memorial, that including the Sphere would be too "didactic."
Burke couldn't disagree more. "The memorial, in order to be genuine and lasting, needs to do more than express our grief and offer healing," he wrote in an editorial in The Downtown Express. "It needs to speak directly to our memories of the Sept. 11 attacks and teach and convey to future generations what happened here."
Burke isn't alone in his desire to see the Sphere as part of the Memorial. Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye, who operates the World Trade Center site, has expressed support for Burke's proposal. State Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and thousands of others have signed a petition, started by Burke, to return the Sphere to the site.
"The point that Mr. Burke made resonates with many people in New York and New Jersey and many people here at the Port Authority, especially given the fact that 84 members of the Port Authority family were killed on 9/11," Foye said. "This is an artifact that survived and was affected by the horrors of 9/11, and placing it on the memorial plaza, we think, is entirely appropriate."
Meanwhile, Burke has taken to cleaning the Sphere himself, as it has somewhat fallen into a state of neglect.