As a resident of downtown Manhattan, I am greeted each morning by the World Trade Center Freedom Tower. Facing south down 7th Avenue, there is nothing but glistening steel set against open sky. When I first moved to New York after graduating college, the tower was a mere 44 stories, a construction project nowhere near its end. And yet, on Monday, the Freedom Tower became the tallest building in New York City. When did that happen? How did all that time pass?
Watching George Stephanopolous’ broadcast from the tower’s 100th floor on Monday morning, I cried. I cried because I was suddenly sitting in my 8th grade English class, hearing whispers about planes and terrorists and the whereabouts of parents who worked at the World Trade Center. There were teachers crying in the hallway, a school-wide assembly, George Bush reassuring me and the rest of the country that “we will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”
Every September, when summer slowly dances out of the City and the faintest hints of fall appear, I’m reminded of those horrible days. The flags at half-mast, the televised memorial services, the chain-linked fence at Ground Zero covered with posters of the missing.
In the days and weeks following 9/11, there was a lot of talk about resilience, how nothing could bring down this nation, not even for a short while. We would face this adversity and come out stronger for it. One of the most poignant speeches was by then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who quoted the New Testament when he said “the bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stones. The fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.” The message was clear; fall down seven times, get up eight. But in those darkest of days, it was hard to imagine where those cedars would grow, and how tall they would become.
The Freedom Tower’s claim on the skyline is a moving testament to ten years of rebuilding. How six years, 37,000 tons of steel, countless hours of union labor and an indomitable collective spirit brought us to 1,250 feet and unlimited possibilities from the top. How sweet the view is from up here.