Ten years ago, the lower Manhattan skyline was forever transformed when terrorists flew two commercial jets into the Twin Towers, the iconic skyscrapers at the World Trade Center, which subsequently crumpled.
In the ensuing years, government agencies, developers and 9/11 victims’ families engaged in disputes that caused numerous delays and design modifications; but, now, the skyline is rising from the ruble at Ground Zero that — for too long — was widely referred to as “a hole in the ground.” And though the last touches won’t be completed for years, the once demolished area is taking shape — the culmination of ten long years.
Half the space of the new World Trade Center site will be devoted to memorial footprints on the spots where the destroyed towers stood. Space has also been set aside for a performing arts center that will combine culture and commerce.
Several weeks ago I toured the site, courtesy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to take the photographs that accompany this essay.
The 104-floor, 1775-foot glass and steel main tower, One World Trade Center (previously known as the Freedom Tower), already dwarfs surrounding structure sand is scheduled to be completed by 2013. Before the current design was finalized, it went through three models, numerous delays and rising budgets.
When finished, the street-level portion around One World Trade Center’s will be a tree-lined plaza. A sunken round section will serve as a planter for landscaping elements to beautify the plaza area.
Investor Larry Silverstein said earlier this year that the Port Authority's estimated completion date for the entire site is 2037, and that billions of dollars had already been spent on the project, even though the site “looks far from finished.”
Though all five office towers of the World Trade Center will open between 2012 and 2016, substantial progress has been made in the last year. Work continues at a brisk pace with significant construction having taken place over the summer.
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum will be completed by Sunday when it will host invited guests and VIPS for the tenth anniversary memorial ceremony. It will honor the thousands who died there that tragic day, as well as pay respects to those whose courage and daring saved others. The Memorial and Museum, which is operated by a private foundation, will open to the general public the following day. The museum will contain artifacts and reminders of 9/11, such as wreckage recovered after the buildings collapsed and hundreds of mementos discovered during the subsequent painful search and rescue efforts. (More information can be found at www.911memorial.org.)
Despite the prolonged disagreements about what should make up the memorial and valuable World Trade Center real estate, it looks as if the final decisions will display a proper memorial that pays tribute to the courage, compassion and unity displayed in the wake of the heartbreak of 9/11/01.