The final piece of the comeback of 1 World Trade Center has been hoisted into place: a 408-foot antenna that now sits atop of the building, making it 1776 feet and the tallest building in the United States. 1776 connects with the year Americans declared their independence from England, and workers flew an American flag from the railing as the spire went up into the bright blue sky. It is a symbolic message to the world that not only this building but all of New York City stands tall and strong.
The World Trade Center has been called many things, including Ground Zero because it is here that the worst terrorist attack on American soil occurred. Many have called it a sacred place, and if you go there now and stand near the footprints of the old towers, where water cascades and mist flies, it is hard to not feel the spirituality of the place, to sense that those 2,753 souls lost on 9/11 are never far from there. It is a burial ground, a place where blood and bone mixed with concrete, steel, and earth. It is impossible to separate what happened here and what was lost; they are sacrosanct acres that should be seen as a place of remembrance and reverence.
I lost a family member and friends on 9/11, and in the days after the attacks every time I looked at the skyline the emptiness in that space where the Twin Towers once soared pierced me right into the heart. Not only were loved ones murdered but the physical damage compounded their loss, and as the city stood resiliently against the despicable evil that brought those buildings down, plans almost immediately went into the works to rebuild.
Over the years I heard people rant about this and that. Some called for the towers to be rebuilt just as they had been in their footprints, but the idea of making those voids sacred spaces made more sense. The concept of the Freedom Tower (now One World Trade Center) came into being, and the building would go up floor by floor and eventually defiantly stand out in the skyline, a message to those who would destroy us that we will never be defeated. New York is bigger than all its skyscrapers because its essence is not brick and mortar but flesh and blood.
As the original towers were being built I watched from my roof in Queens, and as they rose against the skyline I felt like they were New York. Years later when I visited other countries and my friends would get postcards from people visiting America, invariably they would get one with a picture of the Twin Towers on it. They were a symbol of America’s greatness, and it doesn’t take much to understand why the terrorists hit them. They wanted us to break as the buildings did, but they miscalculated our resilience and determination.
So as I stand back and look at my city’s skyline now, I see the gaping space being filled. Now One World Trade Center soars up into the sky like a beacon of hope and strength. Other buildings are going up there too filling in the emptiness, like Two World Trade Center that will be a modest but still impressive 88 stories tall. As things go up we can’t help but remember the day everything came down so dramatically, and we inherently understand that this had to happen in order to get back to where we need to be.
There is also the controversy about the 9/11 museum that is opening next year (it will charge $20 admission fee), and the whole bloated $700 million mess that it became. This is not what families and friends of the victims wanted or deserved, but it was forced upon them. Whatever happens with the museum notwithstanding, millions of visitors from around the world will once again walk around Manhattan and tip their heads upward to see the magnificent new buildings going into place. They will stand close to the footprints and feel the surge of emotion this place causes, and this and the view of the skyline will not cost anything. That is how it should be.
The building is worth more than anything else because it was erected with those lost in mind. It is a monument, as soaring as any one in the world, and it stands tall and powerfully as a message to everyone. Those who would do us harm should take note that this proves they failed. They may have thought they won something but because New York stands taller than ever they lost big time. They just made us stronger, more determined, and showed the world what New York is all about.
One World Trade Center now touches the sky and our hearts. Yes, the pain never goes away, but it can be eased by knowing that what we are back big time. New York is not just the city that never sleeps but one that never gives up. That building is our symbol now and honors those lost in that sacred space and that is forevermore.
Image credits: 1 World Trade Center-ny daily news; workers – getty images