On September 11, 2001 I was in the middle of a pre-flight briefing in USAF pilot training when the terrorist attacks of that day unfolded. As the nation recoiled in the days that followed, the two main questions that loomed were: what would we do to the people responsible and how would we rebuild. Over the past 12+ years, the men and women of the armed forces have worked to answer the former question. Doing so has changed the face of our military, and my service has paled in comparison to that of those doing the brunt of the work, including many of our classmates. All the while, I was unaware of magnitude of the effort involved in the other question, rebuilding.
Silverstein Properties, who had signed a 99-year lease on the twin towers only 6 weeks prior to the attacks, recently hosted the Wharton veterans club for a tour of the World Trade Center (WTC). Our tour was led by Mike Marcucci, a filmmaker who has worked to chronicle the rebuilding process for more than a decade. The WTC covers an area of 16 acres, which, prior to the attacks hosted seven buildings, all of which were destroyed. The original WTC 1 and 2, collectively known as the twin towers, took three years to build, but only stood for 102 and 56 minutes respectively following the attacks. In their collapse, 2,753 people lost their lives, including civilians, fire fighters, police officers, and other emergency responders.
Not surprisingly, those in charge of the rebuilding effort have had the challenging task of managing the often competing desires of a host of concerned parties, including politicians, developers, architects, family members, and other citizens. The final design is nothing short of amazing. The new set of skyscrapers will hold the same office space as the original site, while at the same time, leaving the footprint of the twin towers as a memorial. Each of the architects have designed the new buildings to pay tribute to the original WTC. There is visible pride that shows through the people involved in the project, most of whom were in NYC during the attacks. The site is an amazing display of the resolve that I have come to expect out of New Yorkers.
The twin towers were struck because they stood as an iconic symbol of America and our values. We should be proud that the new site replaces that symbol while paying homage to the past. On April 9, the Wharton Real Estate Club will host Mike Marcucci for a screening of his documentary “16 Acres”, an award-winning film about the rebuilding of ground zero. The film offers a deeper perspective into the challenge of striking balance between the new and the old.