Dear Mr. Silverstein,
You and the other people responsible for deciding the future identity of the World Trade Center Site have one of the most unenviable tasks imaginable. You are in charge of the most emotionally charged piece of ground in America. It cannot be allowed to sit empty for practical reasons, and it must not be allowed to remain lifeless for moral reasons. Yet anything you do with the site may disappoint or anger some portion of the people who feel a deep connection to the place –which is to say, the entire country. Whatever you decide to do with the site, please know that you have my sincere hope that it will be enormously successful and beneficial to our country.
However, now that the current plan for the site –the Freedom Tower– has been forced by security concerns to enter a period of significant delay and redesign (http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/05/04/wtc.rebuilding/index.html), please consider again an alternative to this plan: build back twin towers in place of the two that were knocked down. There would be nothing more inspirational to our people, and nothing more disheartening to our enemies than to see two towers reborn on the site; not simple reproductions of the flawed and dated designs –but grander towers, taller than the originals, technologically more impressive, and visually more imposing. Call the twins Defiance and Inspiration, if you like, because those are the twin emotions the site should embody.
I recognize that dedicated effort from many talented and well-intentioned people has gone into designing the Freedom Tower, both as a business enterprise and a memorial symbol. But the concept has two deep flaws that will handicap its chances of succeeding as a symbol. It may overcome these handicaps, but why add them unnecessarily to such an already difficult mission?
Most obviously, the Freedom Tower is a single tower. No matter what else is done with the design, this symbolic deficiency is glaring and inherent. Within months of the completion of the Twin Towers, taller buildings were erected, but the towers remained wonders long after the title of world’s tallest building was taken from them –because they were twin towers. Impossibly big, twice, they magnified each other’s greatness. Most cities and most nations, could only dream of building the world’s tallest building. New York and America decided to build it twice on the same lot. Imagine that only one tower –identical to the two we knew– had been built on the site. Would it have had even half the effect? The day it became the second tallest building in the world, would it still have inspired so much pride?
Secondly, much of the structure of the Freedom Tower is empty –a steel and glass ornament perched atop a much smaller single tower. “The World Trade Center” is an ambitious name. The Twin Towers lived up to it –and that is why they were attacked. They were global in significance. They were beehives of financial activity. They were such potent symbols because they were not merely symbolic. Like the Pentagon and the Capitol, they were seats of real power, filled to the top with energetic tenants. They did not wear empty hats to claim their heights. Two towers of 110 stories each are being replaced by a single tower that –despite its vacuous tiara– has only 60-70 stories of usable office space. Pushing empty latticework and a well-lighted antenna 1776 feet into the sky is impressive, but it’s nothing like putting people in the sky to overlook the world that looks up at them.
Several nations have sent probes to the moon. America sent men. The difference resonates, don’t you think?
It is not too late to fill the sky with men and women, to fill the site with twins that stand guard at each others side –that speak more powerfully than any words that America cannot be injured but for a brief moment, and that she grows always greater.
Savages from a failed culture that could never have built the towers or even the jets that knocked them down sought to lower us, so that they might believe they are our equals. Please consider carefully your response to them. Show them that they must rise to our level –for we will never decline to theirs.
The greatest memorial that could be built to the Twin Towers and the dead they entombed, is to rise again to the sky in impossible parallel. Two towers of 111 stories is the least we should strive for. The Twin Towers are a symbol more powerful than any we could seek to invent to memorialize them. Make them live again.
Contact information for readers wishing to reach Mr. Silverstein:
Silverstein Properties, Inc.
530 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10036