A set of stairs known as the Survivors’ Staircase are part of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City. The granite and concrete staircase didn’t originate in the museum, though. Originally an outdoor set of stairs, they were vital to the evacuation of people fleeing from the attacks on the World Trade Center towers in 2001.
The Survivors’ Staircase was connected to the northern edge of World Trade Center’s Austin J. Tobin Plaza and led to the sidewalk on Vesey Street below. On the day of the attacks, hundreds of evacuees exited the buildings and crossed the open plaza to the stairs, all while dodging debris raining from the North Tower. The stairs, which were covered by the overhang of the plaza, represented a moment of protection and shelter before they moved on. As people later recounted their survival stories, the staircase was a common thread connecting so many harrowing tales.
The stairs withstood the eventual collapse of the Twin Towers. They were slated for demolition until a federal review process with preservationists, survivors, and other advocates saved the stairs as a historic asset. The final home is alongside the escalators at the bottom level of the 9/11 Memorial.