The Double Check Businessman – New York, New York - Atlas Obscura
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New York, New York

The Double Check Businessman

This anonymous businessman sculpted in bronze became an enduring memorial after 9/11, often mistaken by rescue workers for a survivor amidst the rubble.  

Zuccotti Park has always been a bustling, little oasis in downtown Manhattan. A small park lined with trees, and bordered by Trinity Place and Broadway, it’s been an ideal lunch spot for office workers and tourists since the days when it was called Liberty Park, across from the old World Trade Centers. Amidst the thronging crowds, resting with his briefcase on a granite bench is an anonymous businessman. Often passed by and unnoticed, he is in fact made of bronze.

“Double Check” was sculpted by John Seward Johnson II in 1982, and placed in the park, leant to Merrill Lynch. The only concession to his being from the early 1980s is the oversized calculator and portable tape recorder lying in his open briefcase, items he was double checking before heading into one of the towering office buildings surrounding the park.

When the World Trade Centers collapsed on September 11, 2001, and downtown Manhattan was ravaged by destruction, debris and dust, the solitary bronze businessman was as covered with concrete and dust, as everything else was that terrible day. So bewildered, lifelike and shocked did he look, the Double Check businessman was mistaken for a real person by firemen and rescue teams looking for survivors amidst the rubble. Many first responders were said to have approached this dazed, solitary man, only to startle when wiping the dust from him to find bronze underneath.

“Double Check” became an iconic memorial to the many businessmen who died in the attacks, with flowers and candles left there in the days that followed. The statue itself, dented and damaged by the falling masonry, was temporarily removed to the artist’s studio, where it was refurbished by Johnson. But the damage caused by the Twin Towers collapse he left, as a memorial.

A new plaque was added, stating, “the ‘everyman’ businessman presence in Liberty Park who before, had faded into the background amongst his human brethren, has been called ‘the survivor’....this bronze man sits again in his original site bearing scratches and bruises he sustained that day as a poignant reminder of hope and endurance for us all.”

Today, Zuccotti Park remains as popular as ever, with visitors flocking to the new Freedom Tower, 9/11 memorial and excellent museum, and the science fiction-looking Oculus transportation hub. Johnson’s anonymous businessman from the ’80s is still there, double checking the contents of his briefcase, and still mostly overlooked by passersby.