Damaged World Trade Center sphere
WTC Subway Entrance

Construction September 9, 2009

"We had met the worst of humanity with the best of humanity." -- John Avlon, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's Chief Speechwriter and Deputy Communications Director on the response by New Yorkers to the 9/11 terrorists attack on the World Trade Center in "The Resilent City."

designed by Minoru Yamasaki -- a Japanese American from Seattle, had two towers with the tallest one, the North Tower, standing 1,368 feet and the smaller, the South Tower, at 1,362 feet.  The towers were constructed between 1966 and 1977.  The architect conceived the World Trade Center as "a living symbol of man's dedication to world peace. . . a representation of man's belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his beliefs in the cooperation of men."  From the top of the towers, it was possible to see 45 miles.  At the World Trade Center site, the remains of what may be the ship, the Tijger, used to travel from Amsterdam to the New World by Dutch explorer Adriaen Block in 1613, were discovered during the construction of a subway tunnel in 1916.

THE WORLD TRADE CENTER:  CLASSICS OF AMERICAN ARCHITECTURE, Anthony W. Robins discusses Yamasaki's approach to the designing of the World Trade Center and says "the towers were treated as models, two glistening metallic sculptures in the landscape."  Robins' book was first published in 1987 before 9/11 and its new 2011 edition is a "memory of the World Trade Center as it once was." 

Pictured above is a temporary reconstructed PATH subway station which opened on November 27, 2003.  A World Trade Center Transportation Hub, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to resemble "a bird being released from a child's hand, will become the third-largest transportation center in New York City in 2015.  The hub will link pedestrians to the World Financial Center (WFC) and its ferries through an underground concourse.

The photo taken on September 9, 2009 shows the construction and cranes at the World Trade Center.  One of the buildings is the new headquarters for Goldman Sachs (3rd from the right).  The dome and pyramid buildings on the left are Three World Financial Center and the glass skyscraper on the far right is Seven World Trade Center.  Preliminary construction and the rebuilding of the WTC started on July 4, 2004.  Currently, as of January 2012, the Freedom Tower's construction has reached the 90th floor. 

After September 11, 2001, there was  much discussion about how to rebuild the site.  Current plans by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation are for the building of a Freedom Tower (by architect Daniel Libeskind) which will be 1,776 feet (a tribute to the year 1776) and to become the tallest building in the country.  A World Trade Center Memorial, “Reflecting Absence,” (by designer Michael Arad) is composed of:  “two square, one-acre reflecting pools marking the footprints of the twin towers, each with a square void at its center.”  At the base of these pools are “the names of victims inscribed on walls at the water’s edge.”  The architect, Daniel Libeskind, is designing the new WTC buildings so they will not throw shadows on the memorial site.   Libeskind views the buildings as a "story of memory" of the people who perished on 9/11 but also a story of a "memory of what liberty means," and "what New York means."

Blastings of the bedrock at the World Trade Center began June 12, 2006 and were the first steps toward the construction of the Freedom Tower.  Changes to the design were announced in late June 2006.  Some of them include the adding of a revolving beacon light to the spire’ top and the installation of glass prisms to bring more light into the tower’s base.  The final designs for the three towers that are to surround the FREEDOM TOWER were unveiled in September 2007. 

During the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, the remnants of an 18 century ship were found 20 to 30 feet below street level at the WTC site on July 14, 2010.  The wood-hulled vessel is a 30-foot length vessel and the first such large-scale archaeological find along the Manhattan waterfront since 1982 when an 18th-century cargo ship was found at 175 Water Street.  The vessel is thought to date from the mid- to late 1700s and an old 1797 city map indicates that the WTC building site was near Lindsey's Wharf and Lake's Wharf at the Hudson River.  Following the incident many German would leave their Lower East Side neighborhood and move to Yorkville on the Upper East Side.  

The Sphere sculpture was originally located at ground level in the outdoor plaza at the World Trade Center.  The bronze Sphere, which weighs 45,000 pounds, was designed as “a monument fostering world peace” by Fritz Koenig in 1971.  It survived the 9/11/2001 terrorist attack.  Although damaged, it has been relocated to Battery Park as a temporary memorial to those who died that day.

The entrance to the September 11th National Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero features two 70-foot columns savaged from the wreckage and debris of the World Trade Center's north tower.  The 50-ton columns were permanently installed at the museum in September 2010.

The World Trade Center is one of 11 world-wide sites, dedicated to fighting intolerance, chosen by the Anne Frank Center USA as the destination for saplings that originated from a horse Chesnut tree outside Anne Frank's window in Amsterdam, one  she wrote of in her diary.   The tree in Amsterdam, although diseased, is still standing and is 150 years old.

The United States Navy commissioned the building of a warship, with its bow forged of 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the World Trade Center and named U.S.S. New York, and the motto "Strength forged through sacrifice.  Never forget."  Ships have also been commissioned and will be named Arlington (the location of the Pentagon) and Somerset (the Pennsylvania county in which  the fourth hijacked plane crashed); both locations hit on September 11th.  The U.S.S. New York arrived in New York City on November 2, 2009 passing by the site of the World Trade Center and presenting a 21-gun salute. 

The attack on the World Trade Center was the worst and most costly disaster in New York City history.  Nearly 3000 people were killed that day including 341 firefighters, 23 NYC police officers, 37 Port Authority police officers, and two Emergency Medical Services workers.  When Mayor Rudy Giuliani was first asked about the number of dead, he replied:  "More than any of us can bear."  Of that attack, John Avlon wrote:  but "what was really attacked September 11th was the idea of New York City and America itself -- a beacon of freedom, diversity and equal opportunity."  See Avlon moving piece in EMPIRE CITY NEW YORK THROUGH THE CENTURIES by Kenneth T. Jackson and David S. Dunbar.   

Before the attack the event in the City that had cost the most lives was a fire on the General Slocum Steamboat on June 15, 1904.   Over 1,000 immigrants -- most of them from the neighborhood of Little Germany or Kleindeutschland on the Lower East Side -- died in the fire.  They were on an excursion, sponsored by St. Mark's Luthern Church, up the East River to Locust Grove on Long island Sound for a day of recreation, good food, games and swimming.  The fire occurred as the steamboat approached East 90th Street.  The tragedy led to national reforms in steamboat safety regulations.   

Other major disasters that have occurred in New York City are: 

  • The Great Fires during the American Revolutionary War in both September 1776 and August 1778 destroyed approximately a third of New York City;
  • The Great Fire of 1835;
  • Within a few minutes, a fire quickly destroyed the Crystal Palace (thought to be fireproof) on October 5, 1858.  Crystal Palace was constructed for the World's Fair of 1853 and located at what is now Bryant Park on 42nd Street.  (London also had a Crystal Palace in its Hyde Park which was also destroyed by fire.)
  • The Draft Riots of 1863:  protests against the military draft during the Civil War, resulted in the deaths of 120 people with over 2,000 injured.  The riots were "the worst civil disorder" in America's history;
  • The Triangle ShirtWaist factory fire on Greene Street in March 1911 in which 146 women were burned to death or jumped to their deaths;
  • A fire destroying Coney Island's Dreamland Park in 1911 -- one day before it was to open;
  • A 1944 fire at Luna Park on Coney Island.
One disaster that never happened was an attempt during the Civil War to burn down New York City on November 26, 1864.  The Confederate plot by Confederate officers failed miserably.  

In the year 2010 a fierce national debate began over whether to allow the building of an Islamic Community Center and mosque near Ground Zero.  That debate continues.  Ironically, especially given the controversy surrounding the building of the community center, this area (around Washington Street) was once an Arab neighborhood of Syrian and Lebanese Christians and known as Little Syria

On April 30, 2012, the Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center reached 1271 feet making the building the tallest one in New York City.  When completed in the year 2013, the Freedom Tower will stand 1,776 feet. 

Once completed the new WTC will include:

  • Five new skyscrapers (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 WTC)
  • The National September 11 Memorial and Museum
  • The World Trade Center Transportation Hub
  • 550,000 square feet of retail space
  • A Performing Arts Center.