Sept 2006

I drove over the Verrazano Bridge recently (as I often do when I cover New York City and Long Island area superintendent profiles) and I’m still shocked and hurt when I see the lower Manhattan skyline.

My initial feelings are always with the approximately 3,000 people who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. But seeing the empty space where the World Trade Center once stood still stings like a death, too.

As all of you know, cities, villages and towns have their own personality and character, not just defined by their residents but also by their landmarks, landscapes, businesses and buildings.

For years the Empire State Building stood as that character, a sort of exclamation mark punctuating New York City’s proud industrial and commercial story. Then in the early 1970s, the skyline and the city’s character changed with the completion of the World Trade Center.

I remember that, at first, there were many people who hated the way those two buildings looked. People complained that the towers were like two bland upright rectangles, architecturally devoid of any personality.

But people warmed up to them. After awhile, people, including myself, saw the twin towers not just as monuments to capitalism but more like pillars of a gateway to New York City’s (and by extension, our country’s) strength. With the buildings gone, I guess it still feels like an open wound to me, and with the Empire State Building now standing as the tallest building in Manhattan, it also feels like we’re living in the past; not intentionally, but symbolically.

I hope the awarding of the first construction contact for the World Trade Center Memorial will be the first step toward healing. The funding problems will be worked out, but the most important thing is that by 2009 the memorial will be completed and by then, we should also see the Freedom Tower rising and hopefully with it, our optimism will soar, too. P

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