By Carter B. Horsley
The astonishing images
of the collapsing World Trade Center in the aftermath of the September
11, 2001 terrorist strikes are some of history's most horrifying.
Beyond the terrible
toll of lost lives, the attack shattered the confidence of modern
capitalist society. Life goes on for New Yorkers and Americans,
but differently and now the daily threat of terrorism that has
haunted Israel and England for decades is palpable in the United
Had the terrorists merely
blown up the Statue of Liberty or the Washington Monument, the
outrage would be enormous, but the toppling of the gleaming twin
towers of the World Trade Center not only demolished one of the
great physical icons of the world's financial center, but its
carnage also catapaulted the American psyche into trauma, closing
the financial markets and the nation's airports as well as sealing
off Manhattan. No mere disruption or inconvenience, the strikes
broke complacent routine.
The hijacking of four
passenger jets on the East Coast and the successful use of three
of them in suicide attacks, two in New York and one on the Pentagon
outside Washington, D.C., was a phenomenally well-coordinated
attack. (The fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania and a total
of 266 passengers and crew were killed aboard the four planes.)
The televised "incidents"
were perhaps even more shocking than the Japanese sneak attack
on Pearl Harbor in World War II because they continued to occur
on live national television, unleashing frightful, indelible,
surreal and incredible images whose drama was perhaps more vivid
than any other in history.
The images of the explosions
of atomic bombs, the firebombing of Dresden, and the smoking chimneys
of the German concentration camps almost pale in comparison. Stark
but black-and-white, they were not so explosively colored. Here,
in crystalline sunlight, the shiniest manifestation of the man-made
environment was obliterated.
One thinks of "the
humanity" that engulfed a reporter's emotions as he witnessed
the Hindenbergh tragedy.
Remarkably, the second
attack on the World Trade Center was very well documented in amateur
videos and one in particular, which showed a jetliner smoothly
penetrating one façade of one of the towers and bursting
through another, was amazing and mesmerizing as it was shot with
the camera pointed upwards with a man seated at the lower left
slowly realizing that something horrible was happening way above
him. The playback of this video on national television at a slow
speed was spell-binding, but excruciating - the split-second suddenness
of the realization of violence and death was magnified and timeless,
scientifically precise and very, very heart-breaking.
The attacks were successful
beyond any terrorist's wildest dreams and, tragically and sadly,
it did not come as a surprise. Indeed, the World Trade Center
had been damaged at its base by a terrorist bombing in 1993.
The world has been living
in fear of nuclear war for almost half a century and certainly
natural catastrophes have taken larger tolls, but the September
11, 2001 attacks were extremely stressful for a country that has
managed, to a great extent, to escape great suffering since the
Certainly the blitz
in London, the terrorist IRA bombings in England, the "battle"
for Algerian independence and the ongoing violence in the Mid
East hardened those populations to the fragility of the human
condition to a much greater extent than most Americans have been
accustomed. Glorious special effects in movies and a violent video
and computer game culture and inane tabloid television have inured
much of the United States to the agonizing reality of the real
world, which is much more painful than the virtual.
Living in, and with,
fear is not easy. While events such as these inevitably unleash
vindictive thoughts, their importance transcends the very great
suffering and anguish of those who perished or were injured and
These events are sobering,
rude awakenings to realities that are extremely challenging.
It is cavalier to assume
that such terrorism is merely the outlandish acts of a few madmen.
The lead editorial in the September 12, 2001 edition of The
New York Times bore the headline "An Unfathomable Attack."
It was no more "unfathomable" than the napalming of
Vietnamese children by American bombers. The right adjective is
"unconscionable." The kamikaze sacrifice of the terrorist
perpetrators is, in their culture, heroic, albeit misguided, wrong
and evil. Traditionally, terrorists have justified their actions
by the alleged need to dramatize their cause with limited means.
Assaulting "innocent" people, as opposed to uniformed
"combattants," is not gentlemanly, not honorable, but
to quote Brutus are we not all honorable? There are niceties of
decency, of course, but there is evil, there are unforgivable
actions, there is a need for justice, and war is simply legalized
terrorism and terrorism is war.
The terrorist causes
are not as important as the root of their frustrations and anger.
While the perpetrators are not yet known, there can be little
question that religious fanaticism that seeks to stamp out "infidels"
is a large, very large, part of the problem and that such attitudes
are intolerable in the modern age. Indeed, they are ignorant,
anachronistic, chaotic denials of history and the intellect and
what is "unfathomable" is how such attitudes can have
Can civilized society
stand idly by and permit such attitudes while at the same time
exhorting the virtues of freedom? The very painful answer is no.
Freedom of thought and belief is inviolate and the most fundamental
of American "ways." One can think evil thoughts, but
that does not condone evil deeds. Certainly, the terrorist attacks
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were "despicable"
and evil and should not be condoned, ignored or minimized.
The resolution of the
conflict between freedom and evil, however, cannot be violent
retribution and retaliation, but measured justice and, more importantly,
a very clear-cut renunciation of the hypocrisy that supports,
if not promotes, such perverted thinking.
If a group, or country,
practices something loathesome and bad, it should not be supported
in any way, even if that means there might be economic consequences.
If, for example, Arab states wage or support a racist war then
they should be boycotted, completely.
One should not stand
by idly, just as one cannot shoulder the responsibilities of the
entire world. In this crisis, as in many others, there are many
astounding demonstrations of bravery, selflessness, and dedication
to the alleviation of human suffering. Man can be noble.
For those who supported
these terrorists, the terrorists were very noble, inflicting incredible
damage on a horrid enemy: a decadent, greedy, idolatrous America.
America, of course, is also the land of the free and freedom must
be defended and honored. Decadence, greed, idolatry are serious
concerns. Living dialogues not deathly raids should be the objective
of those who love and those who hate America.
America needs to enlist
the support of its allies and all countries in extending the open
arms of friendship and toleration and peace and in shutting the
door on all who would profit from outrageous acts, all who would
incite riotous, deathly conduct. Past wrongs do not justify new
ones. We do not live in a perfect world. We do live in a human
world that needs to be humane, and just.
The day after the terrorist
strikes New York City was eerily silent and empty, not completely
of course, but in comparison with its regular bustle. Mayor Giuliani
was superb and admirable in his leadership and remarks and as
the hours passed the enormity of the rescue efforts and the dedication
of the rescuers grew ever more inspiring. Deeply bruised, the
city could take great pride in its spirit.
The nation's response
was also awesome. The television networks suspended regular broadcasts
to devote themselves to round-the-clock coverage. Sporting events
were cancelled. People reached out through e-mail when the phone
lines were busy. Old friends and family made contact with their
New Yorkers. The catacyclism nurtured unity. As usual, Peter Jennings
was terrific on ABC News but even his elegant composure was shaken,
first by the acrid smell of smoke from Lower Manhattan that on
Wednesday night wafted all the way up to the ABC studios on Broadway
and 67th Street, and then on Thursday evening when a clip was
shown of the Coldstream Guard Band playing the American national
anthem at Buckingham Palace at the request of Queen Elizabeth
II. Shots of exhausted firemen, of cars covered with photographs
of the missing, of American flags, of grief stricken people, were
deeply moving. Catacyclism canceled clichés. While the
attacks seemed lifted from a Tom Clancy novel and the images of
the tidal wave of debris outdid Hollywood's special effects, this
was very real and the world seemed much more vulnerable.
The Empire State
Building, which was hit and damaged by a B-25 medium bomber on
July 28, 1945, was evacuated a couple of times because of bomb
scares in the weeks following the World Trade Center attacks.
Many popular concerns
and preoccupations appeared trite. As the moments followed and
continued, rage was gradually replaced by the redeeming demonstration
of humanity, civic comfort, civil communications, social needs,
It has been a humbling,
somber experience that has touched everyone.
Two weeks after the
attacks, it was estimated by city officials that about 6,000 people
perished in the strikes on the World Trade Center and the site
will probably not be cleared for about a year.
In the aftermath
of the attacks, American flags sprouted everywhere even as bomb
scares became regular occurences, office buildings tightened their
security and hotel occupancy fell as tourism and travel diminished
significantly. More than two weeks after the attacks, grief and
its reminders were not hard to stumble upon, people still asked
strangers if they had known someone in the attacks, the soul of
the city was troubled.
Since its completion
in the mid-70's, the World Trade Center has been New York's most
prominent landmark and for a very brief while it held the title
of being the world's tallest project.
The center was initially
controversial because of marketplace perceptions that its 10 million
square feet of commercial office space would inundate the Lower
Manhattan market and depress values, a prediction that was true
to a fairly major extent and only partly offset by the grandeur
of the project and the new prominence it brought to Lower Manhattan,
which had been suffering from a corporate exodus to midtown and
Its excavation was used
to create 92 acres of landfill just to its west along the Hudson
River and that landfill was developed as Battery Park City. Initial
architectural plans for Battery Park City envisioned huge and
impressive "megastructures" but economics and politics
eventually resulted in a much down-sized plan that abandoned daring
new designs in favor of more conventional and traditional New
York urban designs. While Battery Park City as developed represented
a lost opportunity for New York City to reassume the mantle of
urban architectectural leadership that it held in the first few
decades of the 20th Century, it did create a very attractive waterfront
mixed-use enclave that is one of the city's most impressive neighborhoods.
Its success was due in large part to the designs by Cesar Pelli
for the World Financial Center across West Street from the World
Trade Center. The World Financial Center was a five-million-square-foot
development of office towers by Olympia & York, a Canadian
development company, centered around a spectacular "Wintergarden"
that is one of the city's great architectural wonders and opens
onto the large yacht basin known as the North Cove.
The World Financial
Center complex of tall office towers each with different geometric
roof forms significantly counterbalanced the tilting of the Lower
Manhattan skyline created by the World Trade Center. The Lower
Manhattan skyline that originally was highlighted before World
War I by the Woolworth and Singer Buildings on Broadway and then
sprouted several more great spires in the Art Deco period such
as the great towers at 1, 40 and 60 Wall, 26 Broadway, 1 Wall
Street and 20 Exchange Place. These great towers, centered in
the middle of the lower end of the island of Manhattan created
the world's greatest and most romantic skyline. While the World
Trade Center would ruin the near symmetry of that skyline, it
was the Chase Manhattan Plaza Building that was developed a decade
or so earlier that messed up the skyline with its huge bulk.
The World Trade Center's
design by Minoru Yamasaki and Emery Roth & Sons was an engineering
marvel that included "sky lobbies" for transfer to express
elevators and a stainless-steel facade that was load-bearing and
permitted large column-free spaces on each 1-acre floor of the
twin, 110-story towers, which actually are not equal in height.
The facade had very narrow windows, only 39 inches wide, to enhance
its rigidity even though the protruding mullions somewhat limited
panoramic vistas from the towers. The towers shared a vast underground
shopping and transportation concourse that included stations of
the city's subways as well as the PATH trains to New Jersey. Between
the two towers was a handsome medium-size hotel clad in stainless-steel,
albeit of a different design, and two large low-rise buildings
that framed the center's very large and windy plaza.
7 World Trade Center
was a 47-office building that was developed after the completion
of the center and was connected to it with a very striking stainless-steel-and-glass
cylindrical skywalk. It collapsed in the aftermath of the terrorist
attack apparently as a result of fires started when the twin towers
World Trade Center was a bit bland and sterile, especially in
its interior spaces, and the rationale behind building a pair
of twin towers rather than a staggered group of three or four
or just one giant tower never clear. But if the bulk and form
and location were questionable, there was no denying that their
proportions and, more importantly, their facades, were truly stunning
and a worthy attraction for the return of King Kong, whose original
trip to New York centered on the Empire State Building, which
now is once again the city's tallest landmark.
Should the center be
the owner of the World Trade Center and the nearby 7 World Trade
Center skyscraper, announced his intention to rebuild and suggested
their replacement with perhaps four medium-size towers. His determination
to rebuild is a laudatory example of New York's indomitable spirit,
but four more medium-size towers would not adequately memorialize
the tragic events nor give the city comparable icons.
The remaining shard
of the base of one of the towers is bent and should be retained
as a striking sculptural memorial to those whose lives have been
lost in this disaster. When the economy permits, the center's
site should be redeveloped but perhaps only with one tower on
the east rather than west side of the site to better fit into
the city's skyline. An interesting possible design scheme would
be that submitted by Frank Gehry and David Childs for a competition
for a new headquarters near Times Square for The New York Times,
a design that was withdrawn but very intriguing. Gehry has designed
a metallic ribbony scheme for a giant waterfront museum for the
Guggenheim Museum on the other side of Lower Manhattan just south
of the South Street Seaport and the high-tech metallic skins of
many of his recent designs are somewhat akin to Yamasaki's great
facades at the World Trade Center.
The following agencies are some of those approved
by the Better Business Bureau of New York City. For all charities
registered with the Better Business Bureau go to http://www.newyork.bbb.org
or phone 212-358-2873. This list has been compiled by Michele
United Way of New York City
2 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Make checks payable to: United Way September 11th Fund
United Way and The New York Community Trust
have established the September 11th Fund to mobilize resources
to respond to the urgent needs of all victims and their families
affected by these attacks. 100% of your contribution will be used
to support victims and their families as United Way and The New
York Community Trust are underwriting all administrative costs.
Donations may be made online or by check.
Twin Towers Fund
This fund has been organized by some major corporations to assist
families of the fallen rescue workers. Contributions can be sent
Twin Towers Fund
P.O. Box 26999
General Post Office
New York, NY 10087-6999
or by calling 1-877-870-4278
Catholic Charities Public Affairs and Development
90 Cherry Lane
Hicksville, NY 11801
Make checks payable to: WTC Relief
This charity offers pastoral and counseling
services and has set up a fund to provide college scholarships
to children of victims. Online contributions to www.helping.org
The International Red Cross
Hotline: 212-HELP NOW
Online donation form: http://store.yahoo.com/redcross-wtc
To donate blood: 1-800-GIVEHELP
If you experience any problems donating contact the American Red
Cross User Support Line at
1-888-778-7762 and select option 6
The Salvation Army
Cash Donations: 1-800-SAL-ARMY
The New York State Hotline for Businesses
Affected by the WTC Attack: 1-800-456-8369.
Business seeking aid can also contact the Federal Emergency Management
Agency at 1-800-462-9029 and the Empire State Development Corporation
at 1-800-ILOVENY which is operating the Business Resource Center
at 633 Third Avenue, 8AM to 7PM weekdays and 10AM to 3PM weekends.
Persons with information pertinent to the
investigation can contact the FBI at 1-866-483-5137 or http://www.ifccfbi.gov.
The hotline for information about victims
On Tuesday, September 18, President Bush
recommended the website at http://www.libertyunites.org.