NEW YORK’S ONE WORLD TRADE CENTRE
Do you remember what you were doing on the morning of September 11th 2001? I woke to the sound of my bedside radio (just as I did every morning) and listened groggily to an announcer saying something about the World Trade Centre in New York. His voice sounded high pitched. Theatrical. Almost as though he was reading a script from War of the Worlds. Then the phone rang. It was my sister. “Turn on your TV,” she said. “Quick!”
When I did so, it was just in time to see a plane crash into the second tower turning it into an inferno of flames. My brain froze with horror. With it came a sense of unreality – as though I was watching a movie unfold. The camera zeroed in on people screaming, terror-stricken and running, smoke engulfing the streets, and then later the acts of sheer desperation...thuds of bodies hitting the pavement as people jumped to their death, choosing a quick exit rather than being slowly charred into oblivion. And then the collapse of the buildings, crumbling to the ground like Lego blocks kicked over by a kid.
Back in the mid 1990s I was in New York for the first time, and dazzled by the city, I’d sat on a bench in the World Trade Centre plaza listening to a jazz horn player. It was a sunny day and around me people nibbled sandwiches or read books during their lunch break. I’d debated whether to fork out what seemed like a considerable amount of dollars at the time to ride up to the observation deck of the south tower. I eventually did so and somewhere among my possessions I still have video footage of that day.
Today I am in New York, standing at the same site but the complex is now known as One World Trade Centre. To get here, I’ve taken the subway and the Trade Centre station is housed in a building called the Oculus (meaning an eye). The structure is supposed to resemble a dove, but looks more like a whale’s skeleton tail-fluke up. The interior ceiling is white ribbed and cage-like. A curiosity all by itself.
Part of the One World site seems much like a work in progress, with construction crews still at work, but beyond this closed off section, people stream across the plaza. One World Trade Centre or “Freedom Tower” its gleaming prisms reflecting the sunlight, stands at the North West corner, and at 1776 feet (including the antenna), it is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and sixth tallest in the world.
A neat fact: the height measurement of 1776 feet is symbolic – it coincides with the year that America’s Declaration of Independence was signed!
Determined never to be vulnerable again, the building has a core guarded by 3-ft thick walls of concrete. Within it is an emergency lift for firefighters and emergency items like water, additional generators as well as ventilators. With a view to sustainability, much of the One World Trade Centre building is constructed from recycled materials, such as gypsum boards and ceiling tiles. About 80% of the towers’ waste products are recycled.
As of today, three towers in addition to One World Trade Centre are complete: 4 World Trade Centre opened in 2013; 7 World Trade Centre opened in 2016, and the latest 3 World Trade Centre opened this June, 2018.
Two square memorial pools splashed by waterfalls mark the footprints of the two original towers, and the names of those who perished here on that fateful day, are inscribed on their parapets. Poignant.
Nearby, while everything crumbled to dust, one lone pear tree survived. Known as The Survivor Tree it still stands here today—a symbol of defiance and tenacity in the face of terror and tragedy.
Kitty corner across the street, the heroic fire fighters who lost their lives in the line of duty are honored with a bas relief plaque, “Dedicated to those who fell and those who carry on.”
I have a choice: Museum, or One World Observatory. I choose the latter and the express elevator “beams” me up to the 102nd floor in forty-seven seconds. Simulated scenes of the city below surround me during the ride. Magical!
I take my time gazing across the city and environs: tiny paper-like sailing boats on the Hudson river and under Meccano-like bridges, a miniature Lady Liberty statuette, Ellis Island and beyond that, New Jersey’s shore line blurred by distance. Closer in, Manhattan’s towers like jagged teeth rear against a cloudy sky. I pause to listen to presentations and watch a slide show after which I leave, for there’s one more “must see” place on my list today.
St. Paul’s church, dubbed “The Little Chapel That Stood” is just across the street from the World Trade Centre. Sheltered by a sycamore tree, the church remained intact, with not even a single broken window pane on that terrible September day and for months afterwards, with the tireless aid of volunteers working round the clock, the church served as a refuge for those in need. Today as I sit in one of the pews, an organist high up in the loft plays the opening chords of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue.
The rebuilding of the One World Trade Centre site is the story of resilience, grit and determination. Like the proverbial Phoenix it has risen from the ashes, defiant fist held high.
IF YOU GO:
For more information and ticket prices: https://oneworldobservatory.com/en-US
PHOTOS: by Margaret Deefholts
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