A View of History in the RemakingNov 12, 2008
Students too young to remember the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center seven years ago saw the past and the future from across the street from where history continues to be made.
Most of the fourth-graders from the Red Bank Charter School gazed in awe at the city below them from the top floor of 7 World Trade Center Monday, from landmark buildings to the pit on one side of the new building, where considerable construction activity was going on.
The 52-story building rose from the rubble of the original 7 World Trade Center destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the twin towers.
It has become a classroom for students, who are learning about architecture, building design and what has been designated the city’s first “green” building for its environmentally friendly features.
Each month, one grade from the Red Bank Charter School visits 7 World Trade Center in tours arranged by Dara McQuillan, vice president of communications and marketing for Silverstein Properties, owners and developers of World Trade Center 3, 4, 5 and 7.
McQuillan lives in Red Bank and has two daughters in the charter school. His youngest daughter, Trinity, has been coming to the site since she was 3.
Students can thank his daughters and their classmates for the idea of touring the gleaming stainless steel and glass tower.
“My two daughters have been part of it, and they love it. At 3, I’d take her (Trinity) to the construction site,” McQuillan said. “Even at a young age, they get a kick out of building things.”
The tour starts with a brief history lesson in the lobby, and McQuillan takes them directly to the 52nd floor, the top floor of the building which is currently open and serves as an informal observation deck.
From there, students saw the very tops of the World Financial Center, the Brooklyn Bridge and what is between other downtown towers. Some eagle-eyed students claimed to spot the apartment of singer Miley Cyrus, star of the “Hannah Montana” television show.
“I have never been up to a building that high or seen Manhattan from that high,” Lola Todman, 9, of Red Bank said after the tour.
She said she learned about how much work it takes to build the Freedom Tower and other trade center buildings.
“It’s very exciting to learn all of that,” Lola said.
What building designers have learned since the terrorist attacks brought down the twin towers also was a topic for students, who were shown the extra-wide staircases, which have glow-in-the-dark striping to facilitate evacuations, and massive cylindrical support columns soaring upward in the lobby.
“We talked about the lessons we learned from9/11,” McQuillan said.
Maya Kelly, 9, of Red Bank said that was one of the things she learned from the outing.
“When you build tall buildings, they have to be secure,” Maya said.
Monday was Maya’s first trip to a building that high, and she admitted to having butterflies in her stomach – not from the direct elevator ride from the lobby to the 52nd floor, but from looking out the larger windows.
“The view was wonderful,” Maya said. “My stomach flipped over just looking down.”
Maya said she isn’t ready to commit to working in a tall tower in the future, at least not yet.
But Chris Outterbridge said he might consider it, noting that the view and watching the construction workers on the job were his favorite things about the trip.
“We went to the top floor, saw the Statue of Liberty, Police Plaza and the people who are building the Freedom Tower,” said Chris, 9, of Red Bank. “It was fun.”
The fourth-graders are the youngest class from the charter school to tour 7 World Trade Center. McQuillan said he tailors his presentation for each grade. Even at that age, the pupils have an understanding of what they see when they tour the studios set up by owner Larry Silverstein for designers of the Freedom Tower and other buildings to be constructed at the site of the original trade center, he said.
“They have a sophisticated level of understanding about what architects do, the models (of buildings), how we select materials,” McQuillan said. “In all grades, we notice an interest in sustainable designs.”
In the design center, McQuillan explained the work of architects, showed the plans they drew and artists’ renderings of the buildings to sprout from the site of the twin towers.
This was also an interactive tour during which students were shown – and in some cases allowed to handle – models of the buildings and examined samples of different materials used for floors, wall coverings, doors and elevator interiors.
The trips to 7 World Trade Center allow the students to apply all their subject areas and expose them to possible career choices in the future, said Meredith Pennotti, charter school principal.
“It’s heightened their awareness, especially those who live close to Manhattan,” McQuillan said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if these children wind up working here.”