Saturday, September 10, 2011

World Trade Center (1973-2001)

I asked my father, DeLane Ryals, if I could share an excerpt from an essay he wrote in the days following the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. I appreciated the history he gave, as well as his memories of living across the Hudson River from those buildings for many years.

When I came to New York in 1962, the World Trade Center was but an ugly rumor on the drawing boards.  The Village Voice opposed the “urban removal” that would disperse an electronics trading district to clear a corner of lower Manhattan for the WTC.
The next time I noticed, The WTC was a hole in the ground.  Some skeptics wondered whether its tall buildings would fall into New York Harbor from the sheer weight of the new structures.  “No,” engineers assured us, “Manhattan is a slab of stone.  As much weight of soil and stone would be excavated as the weight of the superstructures to be raised on the site.”

In the early 1970s I was living in central NJ and watching the Twin Towers rise across the Hudson.  Curiosity got the best of me, and one weekday morning I walked onto the construction site.  Talk about our “open society”, I boarded an elevator; no one stopped me or questioned the legitimacy of my being there.  A lift delivered me to a sky-lobby about 50 stories up, where passengers would transfer to other elevators rising to the 110th floor(except the 110th floor did not exist).  The towers were constructed simultaneously, but one tower was taller, sooner, so it was possible during construction to look down on the shorter of the two taller.  On completion, Tower One (north) rose to 1368 feet while Tower Two reached 1362 feet.
Beneath the WTC was a terminal for PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) trains from NJ.  This became a commuting route between my house in NJ and my office on Manhattan’s West Side.  A lasting impression of the WTC was of rush hour, as thousands of commuters emerged from the PATH trains and ran up the dozen escalators to jobs and appointments in the Center and the Wall Street financial district.

The garage of the North Tower was bombed on February 26, 1993. The toll: 6 persons died; more than a thousand were injured.  That catastrophe was a dress rehearsal for the terror and devastation wreaked upon the WTC on September 11, 2001.
A young man who had grown up on our block in Glen Ridge, NJ, was killed that day.  Missing were countless sons and daughters, parents, friends and neighbors.  Some of them woke up in New York, Connecticut, or New Jersey and made their way to work in the WTC on that Tuesday morning.  Others caught flights at Boston’s Logan Airport, anticipating about 6 hours of flying time to California. But hatred boarded those flights in the person of those who commandeered the airliners and rammed them into the WTC, while their co-conspirators attacked the Pentagon and Somerset, PA.

Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us!

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