This is the history of the WTC I've been waiting to read.
September 7, 2002 9:49 AM   Subscribe

This is the history of the WTC I've been waiting to read. The Height of Ambition, from tomorrows NYT Magazine, collects all the strings that I haven't been able to tie together myself.
posted by djacobs (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
manual trackback: my related rW post (self-link, of course)
posted by djacobs at 9:50 AM on September 7, 2002

A long read, but a very good one. I found the end of Part 5 to be cause for nervous laughter:

When the north tower, the first to go up, was finally topped out on Dec. 23, 1970, it was foggy, and no one could see the view. But James Endler, the West Point grad and construction contractor who oversaw the entire job for the Port Authority, made a point of showing up at a celebration for the workers held on one of the skeletal upper floors -- the first open-air party ever to take place 1,300 feet above the street. There was a band, soda and sandwiches. But when the band played the Mexican hat dance, the construction workers started stomping in unison, and Endler -- standing next to Jack Kyle, the Port Authority's chief engineer -- began to feel odd vibrations in the structure. The floor did not seem steady. After all the wind-tunnel tests, the computer calculations, the structural innovations, had something been missed? Had the thousands upon thousands of steel parts been fitted together incorrectly?

''Jack, how do we stop that vibration?'' Endler asked.

Kyle turned to him, expressionless. ''Don't play that song anymore,'' he advised.
posted by mrbula at 11:11 AM on September 7, 2002

I agree, on both counts. I didn't realise they swayed so much.
posted by ajbattrick at 11:26 AM on September 7, 2002

mrbula: that's exactly the section that stood out to me, as well. I read it out over coffee and blockquoted in on randomWalks. I think the Times folk are hoping it becomes the slogan of the rebuilding process. ;)

I was on top of the memorial arch (in prospect park) the week after September 11, where there is quite a view, and there was a park staffer's child up there who said to no one in particular: "It used to sway back and forth. You know why? Storms!"
posted by djacobs at 11:52 AM on September 7, 2002

I lived, for a time, in the neighborhood near the Holland Tunnel mentioned in the opening paragraphs. As well as taking the PATH trains to the WTC and even, for a short time, working in it (lower 20s, Tower 2, as I recall -- and for irony, when I later worked in the Sears Tower, it was just as close to the ground). Here's a post of mine that some people liked on the question of whether WTC represented "totalitarian" architecture.
posted by dhartung at 12:00 PM on September 7, 2002

It swayed alright, but not just at the top. In high winds, if you happenned to be in the path station below the towers, you could subtly feel the sway fo the tower overhead. A truly bizarre sensation.
posted by BentPenguin at 12:36 PM on September 7, 2002

A sad extension to all of this might include Danny Lyon's photographic book, "The Destruction of Lower Manhattan". It was published in 1969. Amazon doesn't seem to carry it, but here's an article which mentions it. From the article:
"...documented the eerily evacuated streets in which a small neighborhood that retained the history of a downtown slowly being consumed by the wrecking-ball and the boom of the downtown market. The book was a protestation for loss of the oldest neighborhood in the city and an attempt to situate the laborers and lingering human presence as heroic in the face of the grim demolition. "
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 2:05 PM on September 7, 2002

One thing I haven't read about anywhere is that I never remember any New Yorker ever express any affection for the towers. I grew up in NY, and I remember how attached people were to the Flatiron Building, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and lots of other landmarks. But the WTC never inspired love; it was impressive but not beautiful.

Reading about how the towers came to be helped me to understand what they really represented: an icon of big business and city planning. Interesting that the terrorists' view of America was skewed enough that they chose the WTC as their target instead of one of the landmarks that really represents the strength of NYC.
posted by fuzz at 3:09 PM on September 7, 2002

fuzz, that's a non sequitor. Just because they weren't considered "lovely" doesn't negate their status as an icon of the city, it's wealth & importance, and the country. Just because they weren't beloved as beautiful buildings doesn't mean they didn't "represent the strength of NYC"

I think what you meant to say was that it's interesting they didn't choose as targets landmark buildings more treasured, however, that seems to misunderstand the aims of the terrorists.

I thought the article was amazing, one facinating anecdote after the next. A must read, in my judgement.
posted by captain obvious at 5:36 PM on September 7, 2002

Tozzoli led the team of dreamers, planners, architects and builders who overcame countless obstacles to construct the tallest buildings on earth.

posted by fletcher at 11:06 PM on September 7, 2002

At the time.
posted by crasspastor at 11:08 PM on September 7, 2002

For about three years, it looks like. The most comprehensive list I've seen shows the Sears Tower in Chicago taking over the title in 1974, but the Chicago Public Library site shows it as 1973. Anyway, they were clearly the tallest for awhile.
posted by JParker at 2:19 AM on September 8, 2002

crasspaster and jparker, thanks for the clarification.
posted by fletcher at 2:33 AM on September 8, 2002

This was also a cause of some kind of laughter, in this case boyish smirks:
Fancy automated welding techniques, intended to speed up the job and save money, were an expensive failure for Koch Erecting.
Koch Erecting? Sounds like some kind of German Porn Star...
posted by hnnrs at 4:31 AM on September 8, 2002

Great article. Since that day, the NYTimes is about the only source that I can tolerate (or trust) reading regarding the event(s). The band quote is priceless. The more I read about the building, the more I realize how frail it was in many respects.

The question I have is whether the terrorists actually knew that the buildings would fall. Or were they just aiming to make a big dent and scar.

A great read though.
posted by lampshade at 6:10 AM on September 8, 2002

lampshade: I remember reading this a few months ago:
"I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only," he said, according to a U.S. government translation. "This is all that we had hoped for." -Osama bin Laden

So, no, they had no idea the buildings would fall.
posted by hnnrs at 1:19 PM on September 8, 2002

this is one of the most comprehensive links that i've read on metafilter. thank you djacobs for the post. i sat and read it over an hour or so and it certainly helped my understanding of the technical side, but also the politcal aspect and the bigger picture.
posted by triv at 2:55 PM on September 8, 2002

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