WTC’s Place of PeaceAug 25, 2011
Even as concrete mixers hummed beyond the chain-link fence and half a dozen cranes buzzed hundreds of feet above, there was a genuine calm in the reborn plaza at the World Trade Center where nearly 3,000 people died a decade ago.
Maybe it was the water that fell like tropical rain in the mammoth empty squares. Or maybe it was the leafy branches of the trees that block out the Manhattan mayhem. The architects like to think they designed this peace at the World Trade Center, where buildings are starting to scrape the sky again.
But New Yorkers who suffered through the hell know better; the dead are finally at rest. “I remember walking toward the pools with no idea what the sound would be like,” said Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, part of which he unveiled for the media yesterday.
“With 52,000 gallons of water cycling through the pools every minute, I worried that the effect would be too loud, that it would take away from the peace of the memorial. “But the falls are just what you would hope. They create a beautiful whisper, a sound envelope that drowns out the noise of the city.”
What once was merely a vision has finally come to life. Ground Zero, that hopeless, depressing pit, is becoming, once again, a center of world trade surrounded by a neighborhood with spirit to spare.
Daniels said he remembers the days of dust and despair. Now, he marvels at the reflection of the south pool in the glass façade of Tower 4, which is under construction. But what gives this project purpose is the display of 2,983 names, so many that organizers developed an iPhone application to help visitors keep track. The names — capital-letter tributes to the men, women and children killed in the 2001 and 1993 terrorist attacks — are etched in bronze on the memorial pools and illuminated in a soothing light.
“We describe these as voids,” said Matthew Donham, a partner at PWP Landscape Architecture, which helped design the plaza. “The idea was to make an absence that was visible.” With less than three weeks to go before the memorial plaza makes its official debut next month at a solemn 10th anniversary commemoration, construction workers and landscapers were applying the finishing touches.
Near the north pool, where the World Trade Center’s Tower 1 once stood, a team of landscapers tossed soil at the feet of another swamp white oak tree, one of 400 that will line the plaza. Beyond them, a group of men in hardhats prepared steel and concrete for another tower that was just beginning to poke through the downtown ground.
“You have to have enormous respect for what’s going on here,” said Ground Zero developer Larry Silverstein, who is building three of the site’s eventual five towers.
Not even a heckler spinning conspiracy theories about the collapse of the old Tower 7 could dampen Silverstein’s cheery mood. Silverstein said the nation’s bad economy has not discouraged him from completing the ambitious project.
“Looking at this area now, it’s hard to remember that many were concerned that downtown was finished,” Silverstein said. “You should never bet against New York. This town always comes back bigger and better.”