Rise of Freedom: World Trade Center Thanksgiving

Frank Rivera is just one of the hundreds of people building tower four of the World Trade Center, joining the other men and women immensely proud of the work they’re doing.

“It's beautiful to see that something is happening after so many years.” Frank told me. “That something is going on. That someday we'll sit back and look at it when it's fully done and say 'wow I had a part in that.' "

As the towers fell on 9/11, Frank was across the Hudson River. He remembers the moment well.

“We were 30 stories up when we saw the first plane hit. It got very scary, we didn't know what was happening. And when the second plane hit we knew things were never going to be the same and I actually got on my knees and I prayed."

This Thanksgiving, Frank is grateful . . . grateful for his family, and for the opportunity to be working with his son, who's also part of the tower four team.

“What dad doesn't want to be with his son all the time? What dad doesn't want the best for his son. And I'm also a grandpa, too, so I want to make sure my grandson gets to eat, so it's wonderful being with my son. I'm proud of my son. I also have my brother on the job. He's somewhere bending the steel. I have a son-in-law on the job."

Frank, his son, and all the tower four workers gathered last week in what will be the building's lobby for a Thanksgiving lunch provided by WTC developer Larry Silverstein.

“Your effort, your support, your help has been essential through all of this,” Silverstein said in a speech to the workers. “And all I say is God bless you all. A wonderful and very Happy Thanksgiving, and from the bottom of my heart I can only thank you for everything you have done and continue to do. So have a great holiday guys and stay with it.”

John O'Shea was also at the lunch, having adopted the Thanksgiving tradition 30 years ago when he moved to the U.S. from Ireland. Like Frank, he works alongside his son, Patrick, and is grateful for the opportunity, saying, “I'm thankful to be working here on this project. Really, it's a good feeling, and a lot of things to have him here with me following his footsteps, a little bit seeing what he's been doing the whole time I've been growing up."

Patrick O’Shea was just 11 years old the day the towers fell and remembers it as if it were yesterday.

“I was in school. I remember my mother came to pick us up,” he says. “And of course our first fear was our father worked in the city, we knew a lot of people that worked in the city. That was our biggest fear. We couldn't get in touch with anybody, so immediately we went to church, said a few prayers and waited to see what happened.”

And all the men and women working on tower four are thankful for the opportunity to rebuild and to send a message summed up by John O’Shea: “We weren't beaten, we weren't defeated, we were able to, as I say, ‘rise up from the ashes.’ ”