It is often said, “They should have built the Twin Towers right back like they were.” I must admit a sense of agreement with this. I was in New York City on 9/11. I remember the shock, the panic for a missing brother and the smell that lingered for longer than I care to consider.
But, perhaps my most distinct memory came a week or two after 9/11. I had left the city for a weekend, and coming back with my wife and daughter we drove into Manhattan over a bridge on the Eastside. I looked over my city, my home, and didn’t recognize it. It was like seeing a childhood friend after decades. I knew it was home, but it just didn’t feel that way.
"It is replacing the hole in our skyline. For a long time, there's been a blank," says Kenneth Lewis, a managing director with Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, the architects behind Tower 1 of the new World Trade Center. He continues, “This is the marker of the World Trade Center, of Ground Zero, and is a monument in the sky.”
As of this week, the new Tower 1 is 66 floors tall. It will rise to 102 and the broadcast antennae on the roof will make its total height 1,776 feet. But what is new is also very much about what was once at the World Trade Center.
T.J. Gottesdiener is the managing partner at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, “There was some very important significance and symbolism that we thought was appropriate to put back into the new Tower 1," he said. The tributes to the old towers start at the very base.
"The base of the tower is 200 by 200, which is exactly the dimensions of the original Trade Center. This Tower 1 is 200 by 200 again," said Gottesdiener.
Even with the new tower just past its halfway point, you can see tributes to the Twin Towers. Gottesdiener points out the use of metal in the new construction, "The original Trade Center was a glass [with] specular aluminum panels on it. And we've picked up on that idea of that metal."
At the edges of the new tower, stainless steel will offer a brilliant tribute to the towers. Gottesdiener says, “that shiny metal that picks up the sunlight, in this case right on corners to accentuate geometry.”
The tribute continues to the roof and it is there that old gives way to new.
"The height of the building is exactly the same height of the original World Trade Centers, both. The two towers,” says Gottesdiener.
He adds, “many people don't realize this, but the two towers were of different heights. One was 1,362 feet and the other was 1,368 feet. And we've marked both of those heights on the tower: the top of the parapet, 1,368 and another marker at 1,362."
From the roof, a Radom covered broadcast antenna will rise making the tower a total height of 1,776 feet, a dizzying height and also the year America declared independence.
Kenneth Lewis points out that this functional device will also have form. "Radome is transparent to digital broadcasting, but what was wonderful about it is it reflects light,” he said. “It's very light and luminous. And so it becomes a sculpture at the top of the building,” Lewis added.
Gottesdiener says, “This is the size of a 40 story office building all by itself. So there was all kinds of special engineering and design and architecture that went into just that component of the spire to get us to the 1,776 height."
At the top of the spire, a tribute to the city this tower will stand above. In years gone by, ships would anchor outside the great ports of the world. They would serve a simple purpose by broadcasting a beacon in Morse Code. Off Boston, you would get a “B.” Off Delaware, a “D.” It let sailors know where they had arrived.
"The beacon itself goes around and it will be seen at a range of 26 miles,” says Lewis. The tribute is simple. “It flashes the letter 'N' in Morse Code. [Dash-dot] as it's going around. So we have the letter 'N' flashing for New York," Lewis added.
It has been a long journey, but the day when that beacon shines above New York City is near. A day Lewis, Gottesdiener and S.O.M have been working to reach since you could still smell 9/11.
“We started working on this while the pit was still being done,” remembers Lewis.
He continues, “We knew that we had to be part of the solution and we just put our full effort into it. Think of this huge smoking hole. We would smell it every morning when we came in on the subway. I’ll never forget that smell. We would sit down at the board and you’d see fresh drawings every day. That was just a great feeling.”
"I think we're most proud, most pleased, and most interested in this being a testament to America's resiliency,” adds Gottesdiener. When it is done, he feels it will be, “a triumph of what a super tall sky rise skyscraper can be in New York City."
You can see this week’s Rise of Freedom Segment tonight on fox Report, 7pm EDT. Catch up on all our segments by going to www.foxnews.com/freedom. To learn about the work and progress you can also visit these sites www.wtc.com, www.panynj.gov/wtcprogress and www.national911memorial.org.
Martin Hinton is Executive Producer with Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @MartinFHinton.