Saturday 11 September 2010 (9/11): 9 years and 4 years on …
Where were you on 9/11 in the year 2001?
I was in my office at Walmer Park. Someone called me to watch the TV in the boardroom. A plane, they said, had flown into the World Trade Centre.
I imagined it to be a small Cessna or something similar, and because I was busy, I did not think too much of it at the time. A little later, I went to the Boardroom, and as I entered the room, that second Boeing was banking and heading straight for the tower! The rest of the afternoon was spent in front of the TV and even when I went home that evening, I spent the rest of that night in front of the TV.
The rest is now cold recorded history:
On the morning (USA Eastern Time) of September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda-affiliated hijackers flew two 767 jets into the complex, one into each tower, in a coordinated suicide attack. After burning for 56 minutes, the South Tower (2) collapsed, followed a half-hour later by the North Tower (1). 7 World Trade Centre collapsed later in the day and the other buildings, although they did not collapse, had to be demolished because they were damaged beyond repair. The process of cleanup and recovery at the World Trade Centre site took eight months.
The attacks on the World Trade Centre resulted in 2,752 deaths.
I wiped a few tears away. She was but 30 years old when she collapsed and died that day. She, too, was gone too soon!
The WTC had special significance for me.
As a youngster growing up in the sixties and seventies, I followed the building of THAT building with great interest. Remember there was no TV in South Africa at that time, but I read as many books and magazines about the WTC as I could.
The World Trade Centre was a complex of seven buildings in Lower Manhattan in New York City. The original World Trade Centre was designed by Minoru Yamasaki in the early 1960s using a tube-frame structural design for the twin 110-story towers.
Groundbreaking for the WTC took place on 5 August 1966. The North Tower (1) was completed in December 1970 (I was then in Standard 6 – grade 8 ) and the South Tower (2) was finished in July 1971.
The complex was located in the heart of New York City’s downtown financial district. The Windows on the World restaurant was located on the 106th and 107th floors of 1 World Trade Centre (the North Tower) while the Top of the World observation deck was located on the 107th floor of 2 World Trade Centre (the South Tower).
Between 1972 and 1973, the Twin Towers were the tallest buildings in the world (having overtaken the Empire State Building, and then being surpassed by the Sears Building in Chicago.)
Other World Trade Centre buildings included the Marriott World Trade Centre; 4 World Trade Centre; 5 World Trade Centre; 6 World Trade Centre, which housed the United States Customs. All of these buildings were built between 1975 and 1981. The final building constructed was 7 World Trade Centre, which was built in 1985.
In 1974, when I was in Standard 10 (Grade twelve) and selected to be a Rotary exchange Student (read Oklahoma is OK and so much more!), I was given the option to go to Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the USA.
That was no choice for me –obviously, I only wanted to go to the USA and simply because I wanted to see the WTC!
And, so it was, in January 1975, en route from Cape Town, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro and flying into New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport at the age of 18, I saw her for the very first time. From the helicopter that flew me from JFK to La Guardia Airport (for my onward flight to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and final destination Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers Airport), I could see that she dominated the Manhattan skyline. I could hardly contain my excitement – I was living my dream!
In January 1976, on my way home to South Africa via London, I got to spend a week in New York City and to go to the top of the South Tower – to the observation deck on the 107th floor.
During my second visit to NYC in December/January 1987/88, Grant Lloyd and I visited her again and spent New Year’s Eve on Times Square.
Ironically, the day she tumbled in 2001 was just three weeks before our family, Pera, Sean (who was but 8 then), Phillip (was 5 and still at Linkside Pre-primary) and I, were booked to go back to the States on a three-week holiday! The world was in turmoil and we didn’t know until the last moment, when planes started moving again, that we would indeed go.
We headed off from Port Elizabeth into a very uncertain world, via London to Atlanta, Georgia. A handful of us were on that Boeing 767 (no one else wanted to fly!) and we flew, so comfortably with rows of seats to ourselves, right over New York City. My video shows plumes of smoke emanating from Ground Zero, and stretching upwards into the stratosphere.
On my third visit to NYC, the World Trade Centre was no more.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), established in November 2001 to oversee the rebuilding process, organized competitions to select a site plan and memorial design.
Memory Foundations, designed by Daniel Libeskind, was selected as the master plan, which included the 1,776-foot (541 m) One World Trade Centre, three office towers along Church Street and a memorial designed by Michael Arad.
The site is currently being rebuilt with six new skyscrapers and a memorial to the casualties of the attacks. The first new building at the site was 7 World Trade Centre which opened in May 2006.
We will always remember! – those who died, that awful day that changed our world, and where we were on 9/11.