For nearly two years, I looked with awe and admiration at the Empire State Building as I walked from Penn Station to my former office on 36th street. What a beautiful building, I thought to myself, and one that so many people call home for the duration of their work day. It is this very same home that people pass by and stare at from a distance, taking photos — countless photos, in most cases — and paying different amounts of money for tours around and on top of the building. The building top has been used as a destination in a number of movies, one of the most famous being Sleepless in Seattle, in which Tom Hanks meets Meg Ryan and they end up falling in love.
When you take the significance we have come to put on this building and how iconic it is in the New York City skyline, it is hard to not think of another set of buildings that were at one point also quite significant in the New York Skyline that were obliterated thanks to the heinous acts of 11 evil men who perpetrated An American tragedy. It has now been nearly ten years to the day that our beautiful Twin Towers were destroyed, and yet the rebuilt Towers will not be complete until at least the last quarter of 2013 — that’s over two years from now.
In total, it will be twelve years from the time that the original Twin Towers were destroyed until the time that the replacement, as it were, towers will be going in their place. To me, this is completely unacceptable for at least one very good reason. When construction on the Empire State Building started in 1930, there was no World Wide Web, no way to properly instantly transmit data from one part of the world to the other. Yet somehow the building was completed in under two years and under the original proposed budget. Despite no powerful network of worldwide communication, everything was so well coordinated from the people supplying the materials to the people that the girders were still warm to the touch when they arrived at the building site.
If I had to speculate I would say that the majority of the work has been done in the last few years. I recall a great article David W. Boles wrote on the matter a few years back before there was any progress, where he wrote,
The World Trade Center is still a “Ground Zero” death pit. It may not be smoking. It may not be filled with the dead and dying — but there is no spirit there.
There is no building there.
There is no memorial there.
There is only the rotting semiotic of a successful terrorist attack there that was well planned and well executed — and we still have yet to recover any sense of normalcy or reasonableness in its aftermath.
I remember a friend whose home windows were shattered in an early morning homicide bombing in Jerusalem, Israel. He told me that when he came back from school that evening, government contractors had already completely replaced the windows — it looked as though there had been no bombing at all. That is the sort of attitude we should have had after September 11. Search for the missing, remove the rubble, and put the towers back as they were — but even stronger. Instead we sit and wait and hope for the best.