NEW YORK – The New York developer who holds the lease on the World Trade Center wants the complex rebuilt as both a symbol of Manhattan's mighty financial district and as a memorial to those who perished after two jetliners were flown into the twin towers, destroying them.
Nearly 5,000 people are believed to lie beneath tons of rubble and pulverized glass and concrete, many of them firefighters, police officers and emergency personnel who rushed to the scene of what was first thought to be a plane crash at the city's tallest structures.
More than 4,000 of the victims worked in the two 110-story skyscrapers, many for some of the country's most prominent businesses. Thousands of rescue workers have been searching for possible survivors around the clock since the buildings were destroyed by two hijacked airliners in coordinated attacks.
New Yorkers already have begun debating whether what has become a massive grave yard should ever be rebuilt, and whether there is any point -- other than showing that the United States will not be broken -- in rebuilding the symbol of American financial power that was destroyed after surviving a 1993 bombing.
Steve Solomon, a spokesman for Larry Silverstein, the developer, told Reuters: ``Right now, Larry is very focused on the human toil that's been taken and he's very distraught over all the loss of human life and that's his primary concern.''
Four employees of Silverstein's company who worked in the firm's management office on the 88th floor of the tower known as 1 World Trade Center have not been accounted for.
``He (Silverstein) believes that lower Manhattan, the devastated portion of lower Manhattan, should in time be rebuilt, and he feels strongly there should also be a monument to the people that lost their lives in this terrible tragedy,'' Solomon said.
Later, Solomon added: ``I think he believes that the financial district of Manhattan is the global center of commerce for the world and he believes it should be rebuilt in the same capacity as before.''
Oklahoma City, which turned the site of its 1995 bombing into a memorial for the 168 people who perished, has become an exemplar for the Manhattanites, who previously might not have thought they had that much in common with Midwesterners.
``We need a modern-day Christopher Wren,'' Bob Yaro, executive director of the Regional Plan Association, said on Thursday, referring to London's renowned architect who redesigned and restored St. Paul's Cathedral after the Great Fire swept through the central part of the town in 1666.
The association helped broker the deal between New York State and New Jersey that in the early 1970s led to the creation of the massive World Trade Center complex.
``After the Berlin Wall came down, they had an international design competition. That may be the kind of thing we want to do,'' Yaro said.
``However, when this design is done, it's going to have to respect the people who died there and this experience ... The footprints of the twin towers could perhaps be two great urban squares. Maybe they need to be recessed. We need to think about how to honor the people who died in this place,'' Yaro said.
Silverstein's spokesman said the 70-year-old real estate developer and civic leader was not yet focusing on any specifics of a rebuilding plan.
In July, Silverstein closed on the $3.2 billion deal to lease the towering complex, which dominated New York City's skyline and was known around the world from the many movies and television shows that have included footage of the building.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey owns the complex. Silverstein's partner in the deal is Westfield America Inc.
On Thursday, the Port Authority said insurance would substantially cover its economic loss from the destruction of the World Trade Center, which included a total of seven buildings.