1. All that we hold dear

Stowed among the beakers and boxes in the cold room of the Central New Jersey lab are several jars filled with elemental material that, if the need arose, could be categorized as catastrophe. The jars—standard chem-lab bottles in amber or clear glass—are labeled only with the dates September 16 and September 17. Those are the days in 2001 when Dr. Paul J. Lioy, a leading scientist at New Jersey’s Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences Institute, made his way to New York City to sample fallout from the most devastating attack on American soil and the worst environmental disaster in the city’s history. If the terrible calamity of the destruction of the World Trade Center could be reduced to its essence and bottled, ...

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