9/11: Remembering the World Trade Center

Today is 9/11, a day to remember one of America’s worst tragedies, and one of our biggest continuing national embarrassments.

We should be commemorating the dead, the innocents and especially the heroes of 9/11. And we should be celebrating the reconstruction of the new World Trade Center, two new Twin Towers standing proudly in the sky. Unfortunately, only Seven World Trade center has been rebuilt; the new structure looks like a lonely child, searching and waiting for its siblings.

Why have New York State and City failed America? The state and city have been consumed with petty squabbling about how rebuilding should proceed. The answer was simple from day one: rebuild the Twin Towers. But no public official has dared to make the case for reconstruction.

The original WTC plans sit in a Port Authority vault, waiting to be updated and serve as the starting point for a rebuilt WTC. Instead we have been forced to endure an endless series of vapid photo ops, as Governor Pataki and (insert name of public official) wailed away for the cameras and promised a brave new WTC. Unfortunately, all I see is a big hole in the ground.

There have been squabbles about a dance center, a "freedom" center and a bunch of other inane accouterments. All of this nonsense and all of these diversions may have served the needs of campaigning politicians. But the American people have been greatly disserviced by the endless delays in New York.

Here is how I feel, and how I began my journey last evening. I began in Battery Park, where a small eternal flame burns in front of the remnants of the massive sculpture that once stood proudly in the center of the WTC plaza. What a beautiful memorial, I thought. Simple, direct. Poignant and yet not maudlin. And then I wondered, if I had been a victim, what kind of memorial would I want?

I think the Battery Park memorial would have been exactly what I wanted. And I would have wanted my little office in the WTC rebuilt. The best memorial you could have given me is rebuilding the Twin Towers.

It is now 31 years since I became one of the first tenants in Two WTC, Suite 2248. I knew the Twin Towers from the top to the subbasements. They were wonderful structures.

No, they were not luxury buildings. They were utilitarian. They were constructed by a public authority, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. But working within the confines of a public agency’s budget, architect Minouru Yamasaki had created beautiful structures.

Of course, many derided the WTC. But I loved the Twin Towers. They were simple. They were as grand as a public authority’s finances would permit. They were big, tall, strong. They were New York. It took their loss for America to admit the obvious. They were America.

Now I gaze at a big hole in the ground while the politicians continue to squabble.

After World War II they rebuilt Tokyo. We had leveled the place; the whole city. They rebuilt Berlin. We had leveled that too. And they rebuilt London; the jerries did the damage there. Imagine what the world would be like if reconstruction efforts for those cities had been hindered by insatiable photo op demands by greedy politicians, all pandering to special interests and claiming the dead cites were "sacred ground."

The WTC debris was cleared in record time: eight months later there was an empty hole, a building site ready for a building. But while Seven WTC has been rebuilt with private funds, the Twin Towers remain absent. Instead, we have been forced to endure ridiculous efforts to create a "memorial" to the dead, as if we ourselves can memorialize the victims any more than they already stand memorialized by history itself.

As I walked the perimeter of the WTC late last night, the area was surrounded by TV vans and satellite trucks. In America, it seems, every public event must now come encrusted with the detritus of a satellite dish carnival. Pay attention here! Pray to the uber gods of the satellite dish. In Papua New Guinea "cargo cults" prayed to air dropped supplies in WW II. Today, we have replaced cargo cults with the cult of the satellite dish. And so they were there. Patiently, almost silently awaiting daybreak and the descent of the politicians.

Tourists were there this evening/this morning, with an air of anticipation. Locals were there, quietly going or coming from work. Yes, people work in New York, even on weekends, even late at night.

Fortunately, political correctness did not win all the battles. The signs in front still say "World Trade Center" and the E train subway still runs to the World Trade Center station.

But what we need at the World Trade Center site is true reverence, not political reverie.

If you want to see what a 9/11 remembrance should really be like, stop by Trinity Church or St. Paul’s Chapel. There will be services from 8:43 A.M. until 2:00 P.M. at Trinity/St. Paul’s. There won’t be politicians there making promises that can’t be kept. Stop at Trinity or St. Paul’s if you truly want to renew your spirit (see trinitywallstreet.org for details) and remember the helpless, innocent victims of malignant fanatics.

Perhaps only in a dignified Anglican service can we truly memorialize an event that represents religious extremism taken to a level of madness no one believed could consume us.

People who favor rebuilding the WTC will gather at City Hall Park at ll:00 A.M. You can join them if you feel as I do that the time to rebuild the Twin Towers is long overdue.

Shortly after midnight this morning 250 Harley motorcyclists with a police escort descended on Church Street in front of the WTC, to place a wreath on the steel mesh barrier that separates us from the reality of 9/11. It was surreal.

For me, I only wish I could turn back the clock 31 years, and see those Twin Towers as I saw them when I first moved in. Strong civic leadership led the fight to create the World Trade Center. Weak leadership and spineless political manipulation have allowed the unspeakable void in our civic consciousness to endure for four years.

It’s time to rebuild the Twin Towers. On this 9/11, it would be nice if someone uttered the obvious truth: the only true memorial to 9/11 is rebuilding the Twin Towers. That, and nothing less.