It’s been nineteen years and yet it still doesn’t quite seem right to have a “Fun Friday” article on September 11. But the healing is ongoing and so let’s focus on happier days.
The idea of the World Trade Center
As early as the 1950s, New York City’s government was concerned about business development downtown. Once a prosperous area, it had fallen on hard times. So, an ambitious plan was launched. This was in the days when “urban renewal” was a big buzzword, and so between 1961 and 1966 acres and acres of old buildings were demolished to make way for one of the largest urban construction projects ever attempted.
The World Trade Center project was administered by a governmental agency called The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, charged with regulating and increasing commerce through the city’s ports as well as through its train lines. The idea was that this new development would become a center for international businesses seeking to do business in New York. Its location relatively close to the docks made it a good choice.
Not everyone liked the idea, and even after it was approved, some folks didn’t like the overall design. But, eventually it came to symbolize lower Manhattan and people grew affectionate toward the new design.
Building the World Trade Center
Creating the area known as the World Trade Center meant unapologetically destroying dozens of older buildings from previous decades. The area was known as one point as “Radio Row” because of all the electronics retailers there. Before that, it was reclaimed land; part of the site had originally been underwater. For much of the nineteenth century it was a poor area, as you can see in the faithful recreation of downtown in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. The World Trade Center project was the area’s first, best chance to become a global destination.
I found this film from the National Archives, made in 1972, detailing the construction of the two towers.
This film came out a year after construction on the second tower was completed and the whole project still seemed quite fresh. Indeed, the area continued to grow and evolve for several more years with the addition of more buildings. You can see from this film that there was a lot of pride in the new and innovative construction techniques used on the towers.
Honor the past, and look toward the future
On that day nineteen years ago, the world seemed dark and uncertain indeed. While there have been good and bad moments since, for some the world seems equally dark and uncertain today. Yet, it’s only by meeting the future with informed optimism that we can make real changes. This may be a challenging and confusing time for our country, but we’ve had those before. You may feel nervous or uncertain, but we’ve been there before too. Just as a new World Trade Center rose in lower Manhattan — not once but twice — we’ll rise up from where we are now and we’ll rise even higher.
And when that happens… that will be a very fun Friday, indeed.