Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.
WTC: gleaming, brilliant engineering
September 11th, 2013 by Peggy Aycinena
Several weeks ago on a warm, sunny day in New York City, we took the subway south from mid-town Manhattan to return to the World Trade Center after a 10-year hiatus.
The last time we were there in 2003, the skies were gray, the rain intermittent, and the enormous site still cordoned off by an endless chain-link fence. With thousands of other silent tourists, we wandered way around the soggy gaping hole, crossed a covered catwalk, and were channeled into the lobby of the World Financial Center to see models of proposals for the site – a range of different commercial towers combined with various concepts of memorials that might be incorporated into the rebuilt complex.
Returning now in 2013, we did not know what to expect; we were only vaguely aware of how the place is being brought back to life. Had a stranger on the subway not told us, we would not have known that you need tickets to get into the site, that the ticket office is several blocks away from the entrance, and that you will be assigned an entry time that may be hours away. We decided to try to go anyway.
The ticket office is across the street from St. Peter’s Church, and the queue stretches out the door and way down the sidewalk. If you don’t have patience for the process give up at that point, because eventually after you reach the ticket desk and receive your free tickets, you then need to walk several more blocks to reach the entrance to the entrance to the WTC site.
After another long wait in that queue, you’re screened by TSA-style security, and then you wait in line some more. Eventually, the inner queue passes through a gate and you are released into the actual site where finally you’re free – free to walk through a carefully tended urban forest surrounding breathtakingly simple memorial fountains that flow straight down into the earth, and free to step out from underneath the canopy of trees to wonder at a gleaming tower that flows straight up into the sky.
The first tower of the WTC complex to be completed is a multifaceted needle sheathed in mirrored glass that reflects the sky above and the surrounding architectures below. And it does indeed gleam, especially on a crystal clear day when the over-riding colors of lower Manhattan are blue, silver, and green. The overall effect is stunning, a completely different place now than the one we visited in 2003.
One thing has not changed, however. The tens of thousands of people who are there today are just as respectful and subdued as they were 10 years ago.
It’s amazing to be among the masses there in lower Manhattan, all of whom seem to sense the profound meaning of the place, what it represents from a geo-political point of view, and what it represents in terms of the engineering genius that has morphed the site from one of total devastation in 2001 to one that now literally stops you in your tracks with the inspired beauty of it all.
Perhaps because we didn’t know what to expect, every part of the visit was a surprise. And perhaps because we knew what it had looked like in 2003, the shock of the new was all that more intense.
The world is even more connected today, 12 years after the attacks, than it was in 2001 and all that more complex – technically, morally, economically, politically, militarily. Nonetheless, celebrating the re-birth of lower Manhattan is an inevitable outcome of visiting the place. Also inevitable is an acknowledgment of the fundamental optimism of engineering.
If engineering is about problem solving, the new World Trade Center complex is about engineering. Gleaming, brilliant engineering. Surely if we can create order out of chaos there, it should be our obligation to hold out hope for everywhere.
Tags: 9/11, shock of the new, World Trade Center