Rebuild The Towers...almost...
This is a bit of a long read; however, it's a good read.
Wow, this is from a man I don't always agree with, but on this one he makes so much sense to me. I really like the idea of building one of them 229 feet, 4 inches shorter than the other...read on for explanation.
Rebuild them! (Keith Olbermann)
SECAUCUS - They were just a few feet tall and not even as solidly constructed as the old architectural models my father would sometimes bring home from the office for me when I was a kid - but they affected me in a way I never would have imagined.
The towers of The World Trade Center.
They were in our studios yesterday, plastic recreations of the originals, dragged in by groups who are taking advantage of the security concerns about the planned “Freedom Tower” to push the simple idea that the best way to memorialize the victims and restore the community is to re-build the towers exactly as they stood until three and a half years ago.
They’re absolutely right - with one minor caveat. One of the towers should be exactly 229 feet, four inches shorter than the other. I’ll explain why in a bit.
Before that, I have a confession to make. My first job in television was in the lobby of WTC #1 (as they used to call it; I never heard “North Tower” or “South Tower” until the day of the attacks). That’s where CNN’s New York bureau was located until 1984 - behind a two-story thick glass wall that, when we put the studio lights on, made us look like a very cheap high school science experiment.
I hated the place. I mean, if you work in the city’s tallest building and you’re stuck in the lobby, you develop a mean streak about it. The place was comically understaffed (the first two years, we didn’t have a receptionist - whoever was closest to the front door opened it, for staffers, visitors, and bag ladies alike). The commute - from almost anywhere else in the city - was wearying. The mall beneath the towers was a desert, and the neighborhood a wasteland (the dilapidated old West Side Highway still stood - kinda - out the doors to West Street, and the only amusements were those days when big hunks of it would crash to the roadway below). Worst of all, the air conditioning used to go out on an almost regular basis. You’ve never known heat until you’ve worked in a television studio without ventilation. Suits pressed while you wear them.
As I hinted above, my father’s an architect, so I had inherited the typical aesthetic condescension of his profession. What the heck was this Trade Center design supposed to be? The world’s largest salute to Oblong, perhaps - with the faux-gothic grillwork on the outside tacked on in a fruitless attempt to class up the joint.
I went in there to clean out my desk on the afternoon of Saturday, March 31, 1984. I would not return until September 11, 2001.
Suddenly, of course, the sense of drudgery that only a disliked workplace can represent had been transformed into the terrible meaning we all now intuit. And that gaudy grillwork - the only remains standing - stuck out against the smoking pyre of the place with the starkness, and the sudden antiquity, of the Roman Colloseum. The feelings, I needn’t tell you. 40 days as a street reporter in and around the scene of the catastrophe managed to reshape even my memories of the buildings I once dismissed as merely a great deal of weight sitting on top of the place I did my sportscasts.
And as the searing pain of those first few weeks gradually gave way to sadness and thoughts of what, if anything, should be placed on this most hallowed ground, the only thing, the only thing that seemed to make sense, was the towers recreated, as originally designed, oblong boxiness and all - with that one minor caveat about the 229 feet and four inches. I wasn’t among the voices insisting that only rebuilding it as it was would show we hadn’t been “beaten” - merely that all other forms of construction there would offend the sensibility, and diminish, not enhance, the remembrance.
I hadn’t thought much of it lately. The process of healing is a regretful one in a way. We’re designed to forget - not forget the whole, but merely the sharp edges. I hadn’t forgotten the Trade Center, nor my three years in it. Nor had I forgotten the fact that some creatures had managed to use two planes that each contained a friend of mine (Ace Bailey, the former hockey player and executive, was on one, and Tom Pecorelli, who had been one of the studio cameramen for my shows at Fox Sports, was on the other), to kill so many innocents in the buildings, including two college classmates of mine (Mike Tanner and Eamon McEneaney, who happened also to have been the quarterback and the receiver for Cornell University in the first sporting event I ever actually got paid to cover).
Those things hadn’t passed, and they won’t. Nor will the simple reality that it all happened - a reality that will still of a morning unexpectedly punch me in the stomach, or make me wonder for a moment if something so horrible could’ve actually occurred, or if I must have imagined it in a consummate moment in a dream from an endless night.
But I’d forgotten about the rightness of putting the Trade Center back where it stood. Forgotten it, until I saw that model yesterday, and it all came back to me.
The “Freedom Tower” design wasn’t somebody trying to be disrespectful; it was just the unavoidable project of an architectural trend in which everything must look like somebody just built it with a kid’s erector set. The Hearst/Conde Nast building is just getting finished not far from my home, and it’s that same style: Attach Beam A to Side Support B, Tap Support B with a pen to make sure it sounds as tinny as it looks.
But it was wrong.
The best way - the only way - to further soothe the pain is, as the proponents including Donald Trump are suggesting, to rebuild it as it was. Which brings me to my caveat.
I’d use the original blueprints and design the “new” Trade Center exactly as it had been. But I’d insist that one of the towers be exactly 229 feet, four inches shorter than the other. It’s an uncomplicated gimmick to guarantee remembrance. Because, as long as these new towers would stand, someone unaware would ask, “why is one of them shorter than the other?” Whereupon an old-timer could explain, solemnly, that the difference between the heights of the towers is intentional - it’s exactly 2,752 inches.
One inch for each of the victims.
It’s all the memorial we really need.
Thank you Keith. I like the way you think.