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Almost 12 years later, a new discovery of a plane part from 9/11

(UPDATED 4/27 12:54 a.m.)

The New York City Police Department released these photos of what is believed to be a piece of a Boeing plane that was crashed into the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, and the narrow intra-block alley in which it was discovered:

Quite a bit more after the jump. Also NOTE: There's a bit of AP video after the jump with an auto-play I can't turn off, so you'll want to pause or mute that before you continue reading.

The piece was found wedged behind 51 Park Place, an address familiar to those who followed the "Ground Zero mosque" drama a few years go. The owners of 51 Park had surveyors inspecting the building, and that's who made the initial discovery.

A piece of rope found around the plane part deepens the mystery of its discovery. New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has said that they have not ruled out the possibility that the part was lowered into that spot by the rope, though it appears unlikely. That answer apparently in reply to speculation by the Islamic center's lawyer that the piece was placed to reignite controversy about the center.

The location of the newly discovered piece is both remarkable and unsurprising. You may recall one of the more attention-getting images in the wake of the tragedy was the picture of the plane engine on the corner of Murray St. and Church St. And actually, as was pointed out in the objections over the "Ground Zero mosque," a piece of the landing gear was already found to have hit the roof of 51 Park, the very building where this new piece was found.

Below is a diagram from FEMA's World Trade Center Building Performance Study of plane debris thrown across the neighborhood. (Chapter 1 , 3.75MB pdf)

You'll recall, Tower 1 was the north tower, so if you're comparing the diagram above with the Google map, it's kind of upside down. A better look at the narrow gap in the center of the block can be found in this large aerial photo taken September 23, 2001 (Sorry, no street labels. You'll have to just figure it out.)

Toward the end of the AP video of Commissioner Kelly below, he shows a diagram of the location of the piece, explaining that the space in which it is lodged is only 18-inches wide. 

Unfortunately the AP video doesn't include the Q&A with Kelly in which he mentions the rope and also makes this remark reported by CNN:

"If you see how confined this space is, and you realize the chaos that existed on this street, I think it's understandable. It's not that surprising," NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

"It's very, very confined and no construction work went on, or no clean up went on in this 18 inch space between the two buildings" after the attacks.

"Understandable" is probably not the word many residents of Lower Manhattan and family members of victims would use, even if there might be agreement on "not surprising." CNN also quotes Sally Regenhard, whose son, Christian, was a first responder killed in the towers' collapse:

"I'm disgusted, because after 9/11 the proper search was never done. The whole aftermath was uncoordinated. It was inadequate," she said.Regenhard has been one of the leading voices and, at times, critics for the families of the September 11 victims, pushing hard for a federal investigation and calling for a more comprehensive search for remains and debris.

"We advocated for a huge trajectory from that collapse," she said. "Human remains were thrown at least for a mile, but probably two or three miles from the site."

Residents of the area at the time will attest (*) to the sloppiness of the clean-up operation that dragged on for years, making uncleaned, overlooked areas, even mere blocks from the site's epicenter, entirely more believable than an anti-Islamic center conspiracy.