What’s left after 911

When I got off the plane in New York City in late April, I headed straight to Ground Zero.

My trip to New York was for the specific reason of seeing Ground Zero. I wanted to see what happened that day in history that forever changed the world.

Stepping off the subway, I had chills running down my arms and legs; I knew I was close, and I was hesitant to go any farther. I was worried about what I was going to see and how I was going to feel, knowing that over 2,500 people died in a place where I was going to be.

Walking down the street, I caught a glimpse of the surrounding buildings. They were covered with black sheeting. A sad but scared feeling crept through my body. The sounds of the city were on hold; it was as though I was in a bubble, in a whole new world.

No one was talking; everyone was just looking, and some were praying. I walked up to the gates, where all I could see was a hole. In the middle of the hole were stairs that looked as if they had been part of the towers before they fell. It was the saddest thing I have ever seen.

Surrounding the parameter of the fallen grounds was a fence with stone-engraved names of our heroes. I had never seen so many names and saddened faces before. Along with the names were pictures of the towers falling.

Across the street, where Fire House #10 is located, I met a firefighter who was there to represent the house and work, because it is still in operation. Although firefighters died that day, the new team has taken over to help the community in any way that they can.

I thought Ground Zero looked like a big cement hole. After speaking with Donald Hike, a retired businessman now living in Longboat Key in Florida, he explained that it was like a big bathtub. Hike lived in Manhattan in the 1960’s and ’70s.

“When I lived there and watched it get built, the first thing they did was dig a huge hole and fill it with concrete. They call this the bathtub. This was a foundation that surrounded the entire building. It was being built to hold back the river in the event of any catastrophe, and it worked,” Hike said.

“Everyone (who lived in Manhattan) was pretty much in awe of the size of the towers that were gong to be built, because there had never been anything like that done before. We watched it in a feeling of awe. Having lived in Chicago as well, I was comparing it to the Sears Tower,” Hike said.

Hike explained that these towers were much more immaculate.

Previously, the World Trade Center was home to several businesses and corporate offices.

“When the towers were being built, I knew it was going to be a convenient place because there were so many various types of offices in there. Many of them were in connection with Wall Street,” Hike said.

One of the businesses that went down with the attacks was Cantor Fitzgerald, a stockbroker firm that had close ties with the New York Stock Exchange just a block away.

“When the buildings came down, everyone in the operation was killed, with exception of the president, who happened to be delayed getting to work that morning because he had to take his son to school,” Hike explained.

Hike said that since the World Trade Center towers held the headquarters and offices of businesses and operations located all over the world, destruction to those businesses would affect people all over the world.

Hike said that when he saw the television on Sept. 11, 2001, he was afraid the concrete bathtub would not hold, but he was wrong. Since 9/11, people have been planning for something to be built on the grounds. The final decision was made this year.

Companies and individuals from 63 different countries submitted plans for the area. Finally, a jury of 13 people selected a plan called “Reflecting Absence.”

According to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation Web site, “The elements of the guidelines include the delineation of the tower footprints, recognition of every individual killed in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and Feb. 26, 1993, and a final resting place for unidentified remains.”

The idea was developed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker.

“In this powerful, yet simple articulation of the footprints of the Twin Towers, ‘Reflecting Absence’ has made the voids left by the destruction the primary symbols of our loss. By allowing absence to speak for itself, the designers have made the power of these empty footprints the memorial,” the memorial jury said in a statement, according to LMDC.

Along with the memorial, another tower is planned, with an estimated completion date of 2006.

According to LMDC, the public helped to design the world’s tallest building, the Freedom Tower, which will reach 1,776 feet.

“The Freedom Tower will be a proud new symbol of our country’s strength and a monument to our two lost icons. The design calls for a modern, safe and environmentally innovative office tower that will reaffirm lower Manhattan’s place as the financial capital of the world,” said Gov. George Pataki.