Orange County Branch Newsletter

September 2011

Secretary's Column

The World Trade Center Site-Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

By Penny Lew, PE

As the ten year anniversary of September 11, 2001 approaches, I recall my lasting memories of that morning as I was getting ready to go to the office. The story was unfolding before me on the television, my initial disbelief turned to shock as I realized that after the second of the two planes rammed into the World Trade Center,   no accident had occurred….it was an act of aggression.  Upon hearing about a third plane, heading towards the Pentagon building, I started to wonder if this was armageddon.  Every 9-11 anniversary, my husband and watch documentaries detailing different stories and events from people who experienced them closely that day. We always relive some of the shock, anger, and sadness we experienced that September morning as those feelings still linger.   

The cleanup efforts at the World Trade Center site took many months as volunteers helped to clear the rubble and debris left at the site. This was after the emergency workers had combed through the aftermath.  Soon after, the rebuilding process began but was rumored to be set back due to politics, power grabs, and design changes. As the years went by, a lot some of us lost touch with what was being planned for the site.  As we approach the 10th anniversary of the attacks, I wanted to find out more about what has and will become of Ground Zero.

 The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey owns the 16-acre world Trade Center property, one of the world’s most complex construction projects. Recently I watched a portion of a 6-hour special “Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero”, brought to us by executive producer Steven Spielberg which documents the people and challenges behind constructing the 104-story One World Trade Center (Tower One), formerly called the Freedom Tower. The program highlighted the challenges of the project and brings the massive project to a different light on a personal level with those who are intimately involved in its construction. The entire site accommodates 3,000 construction workers daily.

I have found that the new site will ultimately include four skyscrapers, a transportation hub, a museum and a memorial featuring the largest manmade waterfall in history. They are currently all being constructed at the same time the waterfalls will be shaped in the footprints of the former twin towers. Recently completed are the metal plates with the victims’ names installed on each side of the two massive reflecting pools.

Heavy snowfall and harsh conditions this last winter have caused delays.  Adding the shut downs required for any work with cranes when winds are 30 mph or greater has presented its challenges to everyone involved.

Tower One looks quite impressive from the images/renderings of the completed building used in the program. One World Trade Center is located northwest of the footprints of the old World Trade Center and as of mid August this year tops out at the 78th floor.  When it is completed in another year or two, it will be topped off with a 300-foot antenna reaching a symbolic 1776 feet. With another 30 stories to go, the building is already the tallest building in Lower Manhattan.

For those of you who have not seen any renderings, Tower One changes shape and twists as it rises in the form of eight isosceles-triangle glass walls, and tapers at the top. Designed by architect David Childs, the clear façade of the building should emit transparency and luminosity. When it’s completed, One World Trade Center will have 71 elevators serving 105 floors (including those needed for operating the building), office capacity for as many as 10,000 people, and the fastest elevators in the Western Hemisphere where the express elevator will travel as fast as 2,000 feet per minute.    

One World Trade Center, Under Construction

For the 10-year anniversary, many are glad to see that the plaza’s pavilion structure has been completed. The pavilion will serve as the entrance to the September 11th Museum and will be the only building that will stand in Memorial Plaza. It is not due to open until next year.  Memorial Plaza, with twin reflecting pools, will be ready for the anniversary and open to the families of the victims in a September 11 ceremony. The completion of this portion of work is a reminder to everyone affected that we have not forgotten this event or the families affected.

One World Trade Center When Completed

The museum itself will be located underground where original elements of the old WTC are still intact. It is comprised of the original retaining walls including one that separates the old WTC from the Hudson River. The museum will display artifacts and the human stories attached to the victims of the 1993 WTC Bombing 1993, WTC September 11, 2001, and the events that took place at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  Two of the “tridents,” or the famed arches around the base of both of the Twin Tower buildings, have been placed in the center atrium of the museum. 

Artist's rendering of the new New World Trade Center Towers 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7

Designed by a Japanese Firm, Maki and Associates, Tower 4 will be clad with a metallic mesh. At itsupper stories, the building turns its form from square into a pair of triangles and will have a total of 1,800,000 square feet of office space. The building features an 85-foot-tall atrium.

Tower 5, which will be at the site of the former Deutsche bank building that was razed due to contamination and a fire in 2007, is being planned. I read that it is to become some sort of vehicle screening center.

Towers 2 and 3 have yet to be built; however, I find that that 3 World Trade Center will rise 1,170 ft feet above street level. The 80-story building will include 2.8 million square feet of office space spread across 53 floors and five trading floors.  The tower will consist of a central concrete core - steel encased in reinforced concrete — and be clad in an external structural steel frame. Designed to the highest energy efficiency ratings, 3 World Trade Center will seek to achieve the LEED gold standard by the U.S. Green Building Council.

A total of 2,977 people died in the attacks and the American people want the site to stand as a symbol of strength, a symbol of American resilience and perhaps a symbol of defiance.

I hope to visit New York City sometime soon to experience the new buildings, plaza, and museum. My last visit was in 1997 where I visited the towers for the first time. My next visit should be quite different. Over time, with the daily hustle and bustle of the thousands of workers in the new buildings, visitors, and commuters, we may be able to see beyond the tragic past and through to the future.    


See the action at Ground Zero from its Webcam