This essay, published on Friday, September 11, 2015, is exclusive to Notablog.
This essay has been translated into Portuguese by Artur Weber and Adelina Domingos and into French by Pinar Cytheree.
[REMEMBERING THE WORLD TRADE CENTER: 2001; 2002; 2003; 2004; 2005; 2006; 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016; 2017; 2018; 2019; 2020]
A NEW ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER RISES FROM THE ASHES
By Chris Matthew Sciabarra
The Twin Towers, from the Staten Island Ferry, May 12, 2001
On Wednesday, September 2, 2015, I returned to the site of the World Trade Center, my third time since reconstruction began in the wake of that terrible day in 2001, when nearly 3000 people were murdered in an act of catastrophic barbarism. My prior visits were centered on commemorating the horrific events of September 11, 2001, in a way that could not avoid the immense grief, the immense loss, the utterly immense tragedy of that day. In 2012, we had first visited the remarkable memorial park---remarkable for having preserved the footprints of the North and South Towers, the names of the victims engraved in closest proximity to the places where they had worked and died. It brought us a sense of peace and tranquility, a sense of honor to memorialize the dead and celebrate those whose heroic efforts most likely saved the lives of tens of thousands who had been put in mortal danger. On our second visit (in 2014), we toured the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, which gave us an even deeper respect for the courage of the first responders and of those who died or survived miraculously from an inferno that played out on television screens across the world. But no television broadcast could capture that one nightmarish section of the Museum, which I called the "Chamber of Horrors." In this claustrophobic exhibit, we were bombarded by the incessant sounds of beepers, the voices of air traffic controllers trying to make sense of an unfolding tragedy, minute-by-minute, and, finally, the heartbreaking voicemail messages of those who were saying goodbye to their loved ones, knowing that there was no exit from this hell.
But this time, with my sister's birthday the main event of the day, we decided to make our third trip to Ground Zero, not only as an act of solemn remembrance, but also as an act that could inspire us, simply by witnessing the spiritual and material renewal taking place before our very eyes. For here, once again, stands the material manifestation of those spiritual values that can never be undone, not even by commercial aircraft used as missiles to destroy the material elements. Such savagery could not snuff out the spirit of New York, a spirit that embodies heroism, bravery, courage, inspiration, and the rational ability to resurrect, reconstruct, rebuild, and renew.
There is a new skyscraper at One World Trade Center, once dubbed The Freedom Tower. It has risen from the ashes, like a veritable phoenix, giving life to what remains, in effect, a cemetery. To that end, it provides visitors with a vision of the power of human ability to truly rise above tragedy, celebrating as this site should, the greatness of the human imagination.
Despite one's feelings of awe, however, there remains an unavoidable element of grief for all that happened on that clear and sunny late summer day in September 2001. For us, it is now a privilege to be among the first 800,000+ people who have already visited the three-story Observation Deck that inhabits floors 100 to 102.
Whereas last year, our visit was a literal descent into Ground Zero, this year, our visit was a literal ascent to the heavens, in what is now the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The photos below, in this pictorial, were taken by either my sister or me. They encapsulate the credo of One World Trade Center: See Forever. But in their totality, these photos provide only a glimpse of the 360-degree vantage point of the greatest city on earth. My city. My home.
As one walks toward the Tower, one sees a winged architectural structure, a new hub of transportation that will, no doubt, be a connection point for millions of travelers across the tri-state area (Photo 1).
Photo 1: New WTC Transportation Hub
In Photo 2 below, we see One World Trade Center and the Hub in the same frame, while Photo 3 below captures the same structures in the reflection of the glass windows of the Millennium Hilton Hotel.
|Photo 2: Transportation Hub with 1 WTC in Background||
Photo 3: Reflection from the Glass Windows of the Millennium Hilton Hotel
Once one enters One World Trade Center, one takes an escalator to the lobby of the exhibit.
Photo 4: The Escalator inside One World Trade Center
After exiting the escalator, one arrives at the entrance of One World Observatory (photo 5 below).
Photo 5: One World Observatory
Entering "One World Observatory," one finds a dazzling display of images. It is here that my sister and I discovered that we were among the first 844,222 people to visit the observatory, a figure sure to go into the millions over time (see Photo 6). The global map also provides information on the growing numbers of visitors from different countries across the world.
Photo 6: Growing Tally of Visitors to the One World Observatory
As we walked toward the elevators, which would lift us 102 stories in less than a minute, we saw images of the many people who worked toward the completion of this building. Their testimonials spoke of the importance of finishing this project as a tribute to those who perished, and a celebration for those who survived.
Photo 7: Images of Those who Worked to Make One World Trade Center Possible
We then walked into the elevator banks. Entering one of the elevators, my sister photographed the insignia on the floor (shown in Photo 8). As we ascended, the elevator became a three-dimensional theater, giving us an animated view of the growth of Manhattan Island from the 1500s to today, all within the 47 seconds it takes to get to the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center. That animated view is available on YouTube here. A still photograph taken by us is provided in Photo 9.
|Photo 8: Floor of an Elevator to One World Observatory||Photo 9: A Photo Depicting the Number of Stories as One Ascends|
Exiting the elevator, we were brought into a dark room, where various videos projected images on panels, showing the diversity of lifestyles in this remarkable melting pot known as The Big Apple. It ends suddenly, the panels open, and we are all captivated by the genuinely breath-taking panoramic view of the city before us (see here).
We walked out of the mini-theater into the 360-degree Observatory. Our first site was of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor; it was then that a tinge of melancholy came over me.
Photo 10: The Statue of Liberty in the Distance
I remember being interviewed by journalist and author Jeff Sharlet in 1999, who was writing an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education. The interview took place in the lounge near Windows on the World, with the New York City skyline as its mural. In his essay, "Ayn Rand Has Finally Caught the Attention of Scholars: New Books and Research Projects involve Philosophy, Political Theory, Literary Criticism, and Feminism," Sharlet wrote:
Sipping a drink atop this city's tallest skyscraper, decked out in a gray, pinstriped, double-breasted suit, his brown eyes unblinking as he declares his commitment to "total freedom," Chris Matthew Sciabarra . . . pauses for reflection, stares into the dusk at the tiny flame of the Statue of Liberty in the harbor beneath the World Trade Center, and takes another drink. He is sipping seltzer, not a martini, and when he says he's a "man of ideas," it comes out Brooklyn-style: "idears."
A week after Jeff conducted the interview, photographer Don Hamerman took me to the roof of 22 Cortlandt Street, with the Twin Towers as my backdrop. One of those photos accompanied the Chronicle article; this one and another didn't, but they captured the challenge of trying to keep one's eyes open against the force of March winds, 44 stories up.
Clearly, for me, there was a deeply personal connection to the Twin Towers; I regularly saw these sights especially on those nights when my brother, jazz guitarist Carl Barry, performed at Windows on the World. Thus, seeing Lady Liberty from this particular vantage point again had a special poignancy. Yes, it reminded me of the Towers that were no more, and this reality filled my eyes with tears. But there was joy in those tears, for I counted my blessings that I was standing, once again, 102 stories up, within a building such as this, that will provide such a magnificent view of New York City for generations to come. I'm sure there are many people who visit here, who fear that history might repeat itself on these hallowed grounds. I could not help but to experience my own sense of vulnerability; I imagined for a moment, what it might have looked like, staring out windows at this height, seeing a commercial jet coming straight at my workplace. It is hard to believe that those who will occupy this space in the interests of commerce and trade will not feel a similar vulnerability. With time, such feelings will dissipate. But as our founders understood, "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance." Still, in this instance, we can only repeat the words of Virgil, displayed on the walls of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum: "No Day Shall Erase You From the Memory of Time."
We moved along the perimeter of the Observatory, seeing Lower Manhattan, Governors Island, South Brooklyn, and distant, faint views of the Verrazano Bridge and Staten Island (Photo 11).
Photo 11: Lower Manhattan, Governors Island, South Brooklyn, the Verrazano Bridge, and Staten Island in the Haze.
The following photos show various views of the West side of Manhattan along the Hudson River, from Jersey City (Photo 12) to Midtown, the Bronx, and beyond (Photo 13).
|Photo 12: The Hudson River and Jersey City||Photo 13: Hudson River View of the West Side of Manhattan|
The following photos center on what remains my all-time favorite New York City building: The Empire State Building (Photos 14 and 15).
|Photo 14: Midtown, Empire State Building in the Center||Photo 15: Zooming in on The Empire State Building|
|Moving from Midtown, we
walked along the perimeter of the Observatory, which brought us to the
East River, with expansive views of the Borough of Queens and the
Borough of Kings (Brooklyn). Naturally, our picture-taking of Brooklyn
bordered on the obsessive.
|Photo 16: East River View of the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge|
|Photo 17: The Manhattan Bridge||Photo 18: The Brooklyn Bridge|
Photo 19: How Did That Guy Get in There? Naturally, That's Me, with Brooklyn as Backdrop
Photo 20: How Did That Gal Get in There? Liz Sciabarra points toward Fort Greene Park, and Brooklyn Technical High School (for which she currently works as the ED of the Alumni Foundation).
Toward the end of our Observatory tour, we took several photos that provided a very different perspective on the Transportation Hub, which we saw at the beginning of our late afternoon jaunt, and of the North and South Tower footprints, the Memorial Pools, that are the centerpiece of Ground Zero.
Photo 21: A Glimpse of the Transportation Hub from the Observatory
|Photo 22: The Hub on the Left, Reflecting Pools Center||Photo 23: Ground Zero Memorial Pool|
As we reached the end of our circular tour of One World Observatory, it gave us a moment to photograph one another. Indeed, the mutual love and support of siblings made this tour especially meaningful. We have lived together through the horrors of 9/11; we have toured together the wreckage of Ground Zero; we have gone together every year to see the Tribute in Light to the Fallen Towers. Together, we have gone to the Memorial, with the footprints of the North and South Towers preserved; and we have toured the Museum that honors the memory of one of the worst days of our lives as New Yorkers. So it was only natural that we would make this pilgrimage together to yet one more 9/11 by-product, this one a sure sign of rebirth. And the fact that this tour was conducted on my sister's birthday made it all the more meaningful, for she is the greatest sister anyone could ever hope to have, in tragedy and triumph. On this particular day, in this particular city, together, we celebrate the renewal that unfolds before us. (Oh, and she had a Happy Birthday!)
|Photo 24: Sister, Elizabeth Sciabarra||Photo 25: Chris Matthew Sciabarra|
Photo 26: Observatory Exit
Photo 27: One World Trade Center at Dusk (photo taken in 2014)