The Rebuilding
August 19, 2011 1:41 PM   Subscribe

The Memorial. "People talk a lot about the "healing process." Well, this is New York. In the aftermath of a tragedy of monumental proportions, the healing process has been noisy and rude, with elbows out, redolent of greed, power, and the darker forces that drive human existence. And most of the shouting has been about how to make a fitting monument to what happened here. But in a hundred years, all the shouting and all the politics will be forgotten. What will be remembered is what is built here, now, on these sixteen acres."

Single page version

This is Scott Raab's seventh installment of "The Rebuilding," covering the construction and politics surrounding the rise of the new World Trade Center.

Previous Installments:
1) "The Foundation," September 2005
2) "The Engineers," February 2006
3) "The Blasters," September 2006
4) "The Steel," June 2007 / (Single page version)
5) "Of Time and the Freedom Tower," September 2008 / (Single page version)
6) "Good Days at Ground Zero," October 2010 / (Single page version)

In addition, as an addendum to the story, Esquire is running a special feature: What We Saw: 9/11 Remembered:
"You could argue that every issue of Esquire (and most other means of expression in America) since then has been influenced by the effects of that morning. But in a literal sense, we published scores of major stories that arose entirely as a consequence of September 11. Many of them great stories, some of them among the greatest this magazine has ever published. To mark the tenth anniversary of the wrenching start to this era, we assembled this mosaic of fragments from almost forty of those stories. One set of tracks in the impossibly long road behind us."
posted by zarq (37 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
In the aftermath of a tragedy of monumental proportions, the healing process has been noisy and rude, with elbows out, redolent of greed, power, and the darker forces that drive human existence.

You mean it has been human?
posted by Ironmouth at 1:42 PM on August 19, 2011


Ironmouth: "You mean it has been human?"

Even though most memorials are the center of some controversy, it seems as if (and I admit this may be confirmation bias on my part,) the Ground Zero memorial has been particularly contentious. Maya Lin's Vietnam Veteran's Memorial is the only American one I remember in recent memory that inspired such anger and debate.
posted by zarq at 1:56 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


NSF(Not Openly Weeping At Work)

Thank you, zarq.
posted by kmz at 2:03 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: "You mean it has been human?"

Even though most memorials are the center of some controversy, it seems as if (and I admit this may be confirmation bias on my part,) the Ground Zero memorial has been particularly contentious. Maya Lin's Vietnam Veteran's Memorial is the only American one I remember in recent memory that inspired such anger and debate.


The more painful the memories, the more human the reaction to the memorial--the scammers see an opportunity, the victims are living through what happened and everyone with any bias is living their life through the memorial, assigning their own meaning and emotions to it and reacting accordingly.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:04 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


They are making some serious progress. It is already officially the tallest building in lower Manhattan. This has a shot of the skyline from Jersey. And the shot looking down at the memorial is pretty impressive. If you look all the way to the left, you can see the Brooklyn Bridge!

Random trivia. Everything to the right of the highway in that pictue is built on landfill.

What a great city. I guess you can say I suffer from and excess of civic pride.

NSF(Not Openly Weeping At Work)

Yeah, I'm not tearing up, I am smoking and smoke got in my eye.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:06 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


kmz: "NSF(Not Openly Weeping At Work)"

I'm sorry. :(

I should have also included a warning that some of the stories at the "What We Saw: 9/11 Remembered" link are a bit graphic. Apologies to anyone who might have happened upon that unawares.
posted by zarq at 2:10 PM on August 19, 2011


I can't tell you how satisfying it is to see a tall building rising in that space again. That gap in the skyline is still heart-wrenching.
posted by PlusDistance at 2:20 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


My husband's office has a view of the Memorial, and I work a few blocks away. Not ready to click the links yet. The next month is going to be hard enough.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:22 PM on August 19, 2011


Ironmouth: " The more painful the memories, the more human the reaction to the memorial--the scammers see an opportunity, the victims are living through what happened and everyone with any bias is living their life through the memorial, assigning their own meaning and emotions to it and reacting accordingly."

Yes, but I tend to think it's more than that in this case because the memorial site, where so many people had died, was also going to be used for other purposes. Quite a few families and loved ones of those who perished in the attacks were understandably outraged that debris from the area was cleared before it had been entirely sifted for human remains. And then to erect towers on what was essentially an open grave.... The articles touch on this quite a bit. Plus, finding a symbolism to project that met with approval was difficult.
posted by zarq at 2:23 PM on August 19, 2011


To my mind, among the most controversial parts of this memorial is charging $20 admission for access to what should be a public space. We've already spent trillions on illegal wars over 9/11, we should at least get the memorial thrown in for free.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:27 PM on August 19, 2011 [20 favorites]


Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg and the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum Foundation will be discussing the format of the annual ceremony for future anniversaries, including whether or not to continue reading aloud all the victims' names. It's still hard to imagine what the space and the occasion will be like once the memorial and the Freedom Tower aren't just complete but have become familiar features in the Financial District.
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:27 PM on August 19, 2011


Wait they're charging $20 admission?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:35 PM on August 19, 2011


I just can't get over how ugly the building will look when finished. It comes off as cold and immature, especially with the huge unicorn spike/middle finger at the top. It comes off as less a functional building and more a symbol.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:38 PM on August 19, 2011


Wait they're charging $20 admission?

I saw it mentioned a couple months ago as a "possible" fee. Predictably, people aren't happy, specifically some of the 9/11 families. The fee would be for the museum, the plaza and memorial on the eight acre site will remain free and open to the public.

This article was very moving to me. The memorial really looks fantastic and when the whole area is completed it will be double-fantastic.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:42 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


the huge unicorn spike/middle finger at the top. It comes off as less a functional building and more a symbol.

The huge unicorn spike at the top has a function, dearheart. It's for all the antennas that went down with Tower 1.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:00 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Several local radio stations, including Z100 had antennas there, as did a number of local tv stations: WPIX, WABC..... And of course, there was the huge cell tower, whose destruction wiped out cell service for hundreds of thousands of people for a day or ten, depending on where they were located.
posted by zarq at 3:06 PM on August 19, 2011


I just can't get over how ugly the building will look when finished

I wouldn't say ugly, Brandon Blatcher, though I am no Paul Goldberger, but definitely sort of soulless and forgettable. Kind of like a lot of new skyscrapers that are the tallest building in fill in the city.

The original Libeskind tower was a much better design, also not great, but at least a bit distinctive.
posted by xetere at 3:09 PM on August 19, 2011


93 was a mess too, I was sitting at home watching tv, there was no cable in most of Brooklyn then, and it just went to static. I'm a little surprised people don't know about the antennas, but then again, why would they.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:12 PM on August 19, 2011


At this point, I think just leaving a crater is probably a fitting testament to the aftermath and long term consequences of 9/11. I mean, sure, that doesn't really do anything to remember the thousands of innocents killed or whatever, but it's not like that's under consideration anyway.

Fuck, at this point they probably should have just rebuilt it as office space with a tasteful little plaque and historical designation. Sure, it sounds callous or whatever, but it's not like having a decade long political catfight over a damn monument is any better, and it would have said a hell of a lot more about our honest commitment to rebuilding and continuing with our lives.
posted by absalom at 3:12 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was inspired at the time to design a memorial for the open design competition. It was based on the idea of a 'veil' draped over the wreckage of the towers, their forms filled with water to create reflecting pools. But, I was fed up with how the attack had been so cravenly manipulated by Bush & Cheney, and Giuliani, I hated Liebeskind's masterplan and his very involvement in the project, and I was questioning my own motivation (not to mention chances of my work ever being looked at, given the sheer number of people registered).... that after spending so many hours on the project I didn't bother sending it in. I kind of wish I had, now, just so it'd be on record. Some images are here (for a little while anyway) if anybody wants to have a look.
posted by Flashman at 3:21 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


A couple weeks ago, I proofed some articles about the memorial site and the rebuilding process. As I was reading them, I realized that they would be the first of many to come, over the next few weeks.

I'm still not quite sure what to do with myself that weekend. Part of me wants to go far, far away. The other part just wants to go to a bar near my apartment, and have a beer. Like normal.

The bottom of every page of the magazine said "September 11," simply because that's the issue date—month and year. And yet, it catches the eye.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 4:09 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The huge unicorn spike at the top has a function, dearheart. It's for all the antennas that went down with Tower 1.

I did not know that, lambchop, thanks for the information. Still, design wise it strikes me as gaudy. And to be fair, the building looks out of place with the New York of today. 50 years from now, it might fit in more, as newer buildings are built.

But man, it looks like the first step into a Neuromancer type future.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:14 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


N.B., in advance of the media coverage: Minoru Yamasaki, the architect of the two towers and buildings 4, 5, and 6, was not Japanese, but American. He was nisei, born and raised in Seattle.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 4:24 PM on August 19, 2011


I think they're going to have a hell of a time leasing that space.
posted by empath at 4:38 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the whole process really was harmed by the rush to do something right away. The design competitions were all run within what seemed like months of the tragedy. My position was, and remains, that you need a bit more emotional distance to give proper memory, especially from an event like this. Would Maya Lin's memorial design have been picked and built in 1970?

And, NYC would obviously survive without that office space, so there was no humanitarian or urban need to try to rebuild quickly.

Of course, instead of a politically led pause we instead got to have infighting fill what could have been this reflective time. The result is somewhat predictably a place that has acceptable but not exceptional design, but will still carry an immense weight and importance due to its history.
posted by meinvt at 4:41 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't believe they will be charging a fee. I mean, I am not surprised; but if they do it, it will suck the last great thing out of the old WTC site. It just makes me sad. The best part of the old WTC was you could go late at night and sit at the foot of the buildings. The neighborhood was deserted. It was free, relaxing and stunning (for some otherwise rather homely buildings). I was sad because I figured they would close it off for "security reasons" at night, but to charge a fee is just horrible.
posted by milarepa at 4:45 PM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


I still think they should have gone with the THINK proposal. It was understated and beautiful.
posted by Omon Ra at 5:28 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, I guess it's started already. Does anyone know how I can arrange to be kept in an induced coma for about the next month?
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:07 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


It comes off as less a functional building and more a symbol.

Being seen as a symbol may be a feature, not a bug.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:52 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry to see they got rid of the contemplative galleries that were supposed to be underground, behind the waterfalls. It seemed to me that those spaces, looking out through the falling water into the void areas left behind by the towers would have been one of the more remarkable aspects of the project.
posted by washburn at 7:13 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


At this point, I think just leaving a crater is probably a fitting testament to the aftermath and long term consequences of 9/11. I mean, sure, that doesn't really do anything to remember the thousands of innocents killed or whatever, but it's not like that's under consideration anyway.

Fuck, at this point they probably should have just rebuilt it as office space with a tasteful little plaque and historical designation. Sure, it sounds callous or whatever, but it's not like having a decade long political catfight over a damn monument is any better, and it would have said a hell of a lot more about our honest commitment to rebuilding and continuing with our lives.


This...is not how people work, you know? Not many of us can look into the bleakness of the void and shrug off tragedy in this way.

No matter what the design, it would have offended somebody. It's a little America Fuck Yeah for my taste, but then, that's probably right for this site. I didn't like the design of the original towers either, but if they'd been part of my childhood memories of the city, I'm sure I'd probably love them and mourn them anyway.
posted by emjaybee at 8:51 PM on August 19, 2011


I agree with Absalom -- I was working in the World Financial Center when the towers were hit and saw and felt and smelled everything and I was disgusted by what happened afterward, from the hawkers selling photobooks of the towers on fire, to the ridiculous amount of fighting about what would come next for the space, to the all the horrible political and military hay that was made from the tragedy. I would've black-topped over ground zero and put a fence around it and left it that way. I feel America has missed a great opportunity to do good in the wake of 9/111, both for ourselves and the world as a whole.
posted by AJaffe at 10:16 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


they should've rebuilt the Bamiyan Buddhas at Ground Zero.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 12:27 PM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


It was understated and beautiful.

It is beautiful but there really isn't anything understated about two giant skeletons rising 1000+ feet into the sky.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:26 PM on August 20, 2011


Huh, I guess you're right, IvoShandor, you could read it that way, and that's probably why it was rejected, but I didn't. I didn't think of a skeleton, I saw it more as an extension of the two spotlights they used to have. A way of binding a space where something used to be. I saw the air and the light and the glass, bound by an outline.
posted by Omon Ra at 3:36 PM on August 20, 2011


To be fair I didn't spend much time with the design. My reaction was kind of a knee-jerk, which may also have contributed to it not being chosen. I'm an architecture buff and that was my reaction, so perhaps someone not at all interested in architecture would react even more harshly, even more knee-jerk.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:44 PM on August 20, 2011


I met that real estate developer on a yacht that I worked on a few years back. I was serving brunch to him and his wife and the owners of the yacht I worked on. He bitched on and on about how he was getting screwed out of so much money because of the attack, while his wife waxed on about all the things that she had to do to get their new 150 foot yacht done in time for the season in the Mediterranean. Not even once did they mention the people who died, or how lucky that they were not on site that day. Nope, just money. I understand they took a financial hit and that amount of money must represent a lot of jobs for many people, but man they came off as crass and horrible humans of little worth to society. I was disgusted. It is very hard to read survivors' stories and contrast them with the behavior I saw that day.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 9:00 PM on August 23, 2011


« Older When two readers love each other very much, they...   |   Yes, they consider us... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments