The World Trade Center Memorial

The terrorism directed at the United States of America on September 11, 2001 was a harsh reminder of the ever increasing threat toward our nation. The goal of terrorism is to shock, terrify and disrupt, to have an unnerving effect on how a society carries out its affairs. The twin towers of the World Trade Center have been a symbol of our nation, and somewhat of a controversy, since their blueprints were conceived. Consequently, one would expect that the rebuilding of the site after the attacks would induce some debate, due to the millions of differing opinions across the globe ("WTC Redevelopment" 3). Therefore, New York State Governor Pataki established the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) to help settle the differences. Through this corporation, a worldwide competition to design the sixteen acre site was launched, immediately gaining much more attention than originally anticipated ("Attracts Registrants" 1). A design was chosen, but developers were faced with more obstacles, now pertaining to an insurance dispute ("Limit on Replacement" 1). It seems that the uncertain future of the World Trade Center site will consist of many more challenges to come.

The concept for the World Trade Center was conceived in 1962, a time when New York City was in a slight recession. Subsequently, the development of the towers was seen to be an act of confidence. The skyscrapers were the city's way of saying that the future was bright, and that it was still the nerve center of the world economy (Skinner 38). From the moment they were built, they were instantaneous landmarks, even boasting their own postal zip code (10048). The construction of the towers called for ten thousand laborers and claimed sixty lives. One hundred sixty four buildings were demolished to make room for the new development (Johnson and Ross 1). The lead architect of the project, Minoru Yamasaki, had worked for the firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, the designers of the Empire State Building. Yet, despite the fact that Yamasaki had since conceived numerous other architectural plans for the cities of Detroit and St. Louis, his first major outbreak of popularity came through the Twin Towers. "The World Trade Center must…become the living representation of the faith of man in humanity, of his need for individual dignity, of his trust in cooperation and, through this, of his ability to find greatness," said Yamasaki (Skinner 41). Unfortunately, not everyone felt this way about the project. Many architectural critics did not support the World Trade Center or the Twin Towers' massive size and design. It was never a secret that a clear division stood between the logical experts and the dream of the city. To Nicolai Ourousseff, Los Angeles Times architectural critic, it was no surprise that the towers were targeted. Two days after the 9/11 attacks, he described the Twin Towers as "unusually strong" symbols with limited architectural value (Skinner 38). His statement had the utmost validity; although the towers were built to resist atmospheric agents, seismic events and even incidental intrusion by an airliner, they were unable to withstand the heat caused by the combusted twenty thousand gallons of jet fuel (Skinner 43). Two hundred thousand tons of steel plummeted toward the streets below. The workplace of over fifty thousand New Yorkers was instantly demolished (Johnson and Ross 1).

The controversy of the original towers transferred over when it came time to decide what would be done to ground zero. The families of the 2,749 victims all seemed to have varying opinions and distinctive ideas. Because New York State Law requires that any human remains be given a decent burial, and remains have been found as recently as October 2006, it has seemed somewhat impossible to begin forward progression toward a conclusion. Many people expressed their thoughts that the entire site should be reserved for a memorial, much like the site of the Murrah Federal Building, which was a target of domestic terrorism in April of 1995 (WTC Redevelopment 3). Others felt that the site should be rebuilt as a business district with the belief that it would substantiate the power and resiliency of the United States. Finally, the first decision was made; half of the sixteen acre lot would be solely dedicated to a memorial, while the other half would be reserved for new office space. This decision bolstered the creation of the first step toward rebuilding…Freedom Tower. The 1, 776 foot tall building was designed by Daniel Libeskind. The symbolic height of this building will make it the tallest in the world. On July 4, 2004, the first cornerstone for Freedom Tower was laid, representing the strives being made toward a new site. The tower itself is expected to cost up to two billion dollars and is predicted to be ready for occupants by 2011 (Johnson and Ross 2). Additionally, construction on towers which will be located to the east of ground zero will begin earlier than expected. The visitors' center is projected to open in 2010, while the new transit hub and four new office towers are expected to undergo developments by 2009.

As a response to the disaster and the need for redevelopment, Governor Pataki established the LMDC, and the competition to design the eight acre memorial plot for the World Trade Center (Johnson and Ross 2). The memorial will honor victims who lost their lives in both the 1993 and 2001 attacks. The competition consisted of two stages; the first being design submissions, jury evaluation and the selection of eight finalists; the second stage lead the finalists to further develop their designs to be carefully scrutinized and compared to the Memorial Mission Statement. In all, the competition received 5,201 unique design submissions from all fifty states and sixty-three nations ("About Competition" 1). The competition was open to any person eighteen years or older, without regard of professional accreditation. The only expectation was a twenty-five dollar registration fee, to be used toward the memorial. The jury chosen to represent the LMDC, and to make the final decisions determining the fate of the memorial, was comprised of thirteen handpicked individuals including: the spouse of a victim, art, renovation/memorial, architecture and public relations professionals, a resident and business owner from Manhattan, a crisis coordinator and lastly, honorary member David Rockefeller, the visionary for the original World Trade Center and Manhattan philanthropist for over sixty years ("Jury" 1-4). The public also had mandate in the decision when the jury held an open forum, ready to hear the opinions of everyone. To Governor Pataki's surprise, his establishment ended up being the largest design competition in history, and all of the funding for it came from the LMDC and Pataki's fundraising efforts ("Attracts Registrants" 1-2).

In January 2004, the winner of the competition was announced. Michael Arad, a Manhattan resident, won the competition with his design "Reflecting Absence." His design consists of two large voids containing recessed pools bordered by continuously flowing waterfalls. The open, visible clearings are the foundations of the buildings and represent their "footprints." They will resonate a feeling of loss and absence. Just to the north lies Freedom Tower, reverberating a sense of rebirth and strength. The ground level plaza is meant to be a meditating space that encourages daily use by New Yorkers. It will not be isolated whatsoever from the city, but instead, it will be a living part of it. If visitors travel down the ramps around the perimeter of the pools, they will feel as if they are immersed into a cool darkness. They sound of falling water will grow louder, and eventually they will be lead to a thin curtain of water, staring at an enormous pool. Behind the curtain of falling water will be a seemingly endless ribbon of victim's names, in no specific order. Rescue workers will be identified by insignia engraved beside their name. Family of the deceased can be guided to a loved one's name by on-site staff or a printed directory. The visitors will be able to sense that what is beyond the waterfall is visible but inaccessible. The footprints will be private and contemplative. Contrastingly, the underground passageway connecting the North and South footprints will be public and bustling. This area will include an underground "interpretive center" in the bedrock. It will consist of a museum, lecture halls and a research library. The museum will contain preserved artifacts such as twisted steel beams, a crushed fire truck and personal artifacts (Arad 1-2). Also, the American Red Cross donated 322 pieces of children's art and other various items. The not-for-profit World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, who will raise funds, oversee the design and operate the memorial, wants the museum to be appropriate for all ages ("Museum Art" 1). Construction on the museum began August 17, 2006 and will have a partial opening by 2009 (Cassandra 1).

Unfortunately, the progression was somewhat halted when Larry Silverstein, the leaseholder of the World Trade Center property, became involved in a dispute with the insurance companies. The case went to the U.S. District Court and on October 31, 2006, Judge Harold Baer ruled that the insurers were only responsible for the cost of rebuilding the towers as they stood on September 10, 2001. He established that the policy was not bought to rebuild "the way a savvy developer would build it in 2006." The court also pointed out that the costs for security and safety upgrades would be hypothetical because the intention is not to rebuild, but to redevelop. New designs/upgrades would require an additional seven hundred million dollars (Limit on Replacement 1-2). Thus far, Silverstein has been paid 4.6 billion dollars, some of which has been contributed to the Freedom Tower project. Due to these arguments, President Bush administered the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, stating that the government must share the financial burden of a terrorist attack and offer litigation management when needed (WTC Redevelopment).

To reiterate, violence in the world will always be a threat, and occasions of sheer vulnerability are a fact of life. In the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site and the consideration of the memorial and the office space, one must remember the victims of the unnecessary cruelty, but also the power and capability of our nation. If the LMDC, and other contributors, can overcome the many obstacles facing them as they embark upon the journey to rebuild on the site of a landmark, Manhattan and the United States have the potential to reflect our influence and strength through the absence of a late national symbol.

Works Cited

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