Re-Building After Terror - A Photo Timeline

Rising From the Ashes: A Photo Timeline

After terrorists struck the World Trade Center towers, architects proposed ambitious plans for reconstruction in New York. Some people said the designs were impractical and that America could never recover. But now skyscrapers are rising and those early dreams seem within reach. Just look at how far we've come.

New York World Trade Center Wreckage
New York World Trade Center Wreckage. Photo © Chris Hondros/Getty Images

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 destroyed New York's 16-acre World Trade Center complex and killed an estimated 2,749 people. In the days and weeks after the disaster, rescue workers searched for survivors and then, remains. Many first-responders and other workers later became gravely ill with lung conditions brought on by smoke, fumes, and toxic dust. More »

Winter 2001 - Spring 2002: Debris Cleared

New York Ground Zero Cleanup
Debris from the remains of the World Trade Center is lifted from a truck onto a barge on December 12, 2001. Photo © Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The collapse of the World Trade Center buildings left some 1.8 billion tons of steel and concrete. For many months, laborers worked through the night to clear away the debris. New York Governor George Pataki and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani created the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) to plan the reconstruction of Lower Manhattan and distribute $10 billion in federal reconstruction funds.

May 2002: Last Support Beam Removed

The last support beam from the south tower of the former World Trade Center is removed
In May 2002, the last support beam from the south tower of the former World Trade Center is removed. Photo © Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The last support beam from the south tower of the former World Trade Center was removed during a ceremony on May 30, 2002. This marked the official end of the World Trade Center recovery operation. The next step was to rebuild a subway tunnel that would extend 70 feet below ground at Ground Zero. By the one-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the World Trade Center reconstruction project was underway.

The public reviews proposed plans for rebuilding New York's World Trade Center, December 2002
The public reviews proposed plans for rebuilding New York's World Trade Center, December 2002. Photo © Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Proposals for reconstruction on the site of New York's World Trade Center stirred heated debate. How could architecture meet the practical needs of the City and also honor those who were killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001? More than 2,000 proposals were submitted to New York's Innovative Design Contest. In December 2002, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced seven semi-finalists. More »

Model of the World Trade Center Plan by Studio Libeskind
Model of the World Trade Center Plan by Studio Libeskind. Photo courtesy of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

From the many proposals submitted in 2002, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation selected Studio Libeskind's design, a Master Plan that would restore the 11 million square feet of office space that had been lost on September 11, 2001. Architect Daniel Libeskind proposed a 1,776-foot (541-meter) spindle-shaped tower with room for indoor gardens above the 70th floor. At the center of the World Trade Center complex, a 70-foot pit would expose the concrete foundation walls of the former Twin Tower buildings.

In August 2003, Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava was chosen to design a new train and subway station at the World Trade Center site. More »

Real estate developer Donald Trump proposed an alternate plan for the World Trade Center complex
Real estate developer Donald Trump proposed an alternate plan for the World Trade Center complex, May 18, 2005. Photo © Chris Hondros/Getty Images

After extensive revisions, Daniel Libeskind's plan for the World Trade Center site was transformed. Working with Libeskind on Freedom Tower, skyscraper architect David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) pushed for dramatic changes. The re-designed Freedom Tower was officially presented on December 19, 2003, to less than am enthusiastic reception. Architects went back to the drawing board. In the midst of the design controversy, real estate developer Donald Trump proposed an alternate plan.  More »

Reflecting Absence Memorial Hall, 2003 Plan by Michael Arad
Reflecting Absence Memorial Hall, 2003 Plan by Michael Arad. Rendering: Lower Manhattan Development Corp. via Getty Images

At the same time the World Trade Center design was being disputed, another design competition was held. A memorial honoring those who died in the terrorist attacks inspired an astonishing 5,201 proposals from 62 countries. The winning concept by Michael Arad was announced in January 2004. Arad joined forces with landscape architect Peter Walker to develop the plans. The proposal, Reflecting Absence, has since gone through many revisions. More »

July 2004: Tower Cornerstone Laid

New York World Trade Center Cornerstone Ceremony
The symbolic cornerstone of 1 World Trade Center was laid down in a ceremony on July 4, 2004. Photo © Monika Graff/Getty Images

Even before a final design was approved, the symbolic cornerstone of 1 World Trade Center (Freedom Tower) was laid in a ceremony on July 4, 2004. Shown here: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveils the cornerstone's inscription as New York State Governor George Pataki (left) and New Jersey Governor James McGreevey (right) look on. However, before construction could begin in earnest, the World Trade Center planners faced many controversies and obstacles.

Also in July 2004, the competition jury announced that they had selected architects Michael Arad and Peter Walker to design the National Memorial for the New York World Trade Center site.

Architect and designer David Childs presents a model of the new Freedom Tower
Architect and designer David Childs presents a model of the new Freedom Tower. Photo © Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

 For more than a year, construction stalled. Families of September 11 victims objected to the plans. Cleanup workers reported health problems stemming from toxic dust at Ground Zero. Many people worried that the soaring Freedom Tower would be vulnerable to another terrorist attack. A top official in charge of the project resigned. David Childs became the lead architect, and by June 2005 Freedom Tower had been redesigned. Architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable wrote that Daniel Libeskind's vision had been replaced by "an awkwardly torqued hybrid." More »

Architect's Rendering of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub
Architect's Rendering of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub. Courtesy of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey

On September 6, 2005, workers began constructing a $2.21 billion terminal and transportation hub that would link subways to ferries and commuter trains in Lower Manhattan. The architect, Santiago Calatrava, envisioned a glass and steel structure that would suggest a bird in flight. He proposed that each level inside the station be column-free to create an open, bright space. Calatrava's plan was later modified to make the terminal more secure. More »

7 World Trade Center Opens
7 World Trade Center Opens. Photo © Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Located across from the World Trade Center site, 7 World Trade Center had been destroyed by flying debris and uncontrollable fires after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. A new 52-story office tower designed by David Childs of SOM officially opened on May 23, 2006. More »

June 2006: Bedrock Cleared

In June 2006, the Freedom Tower cornerstone was temporarily removed as excavators prepared the land for the footings to support the building. The process involved burying explosives as deep as 85 feet and then detonating the charges. The loose rock was excavated and lifted out by crane to expose the bedrock underneath. The use of explosives helped speed up the construction process and continued for two months. By November 2006, the construction crews were ready to pour some 400 cubic yards of concrete for the foundation.

December 2006: Tower Beams Raised

Workers watch the raising of a steel beam for Freedom Tower, December 19, 2006
Workers watch the raising of a steel beam for Freedom Tower, December 19, 2006. Photo © Chris Hondros/Getty Images

On December 19, 2006, several 30-foot, 25-ton steel beams were erected at Ground Zero, marking the first vertical construction of the planned Freedom Tower. Approximately 805 tons of steel were produced in Luxembourg to create the first 27 enormous beams for Freedom Tower. The public was invited to sign the beams before they were installed.

September 2007: More Plans Unveiled

After many revisions, World Trade Center officials unveiled final designs and construction plans for Tower 2 by Norman Foster, Tower 3 by Richard Rogers, and Tower 4 by architect Fumihiko Maki. Located on Greenwich Street along the eastern edge of the World Trade Center site, the three planned towers by these world-famous architects were designed for environmental efficiency and optimum security.

December 2008: Survivors' Stairs Installed

World Trade Center Survivors' Stairway
World Trade Center Survivors' Stairway. Photo © Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Vesey Street stairway was an escape route for hundreds of people fleeing flames after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. After surviving the collapse of the towers, the stairs remained the only above-ground remnant of the World Trade Center. Many people felt that the stairs should be preserved as a testament to the survivors who used them. The "Survivors' Stairway" was placed on a bedrock foundation in July 2008. On December 11, 2008, the stairway was moved to its final location at the site of the National 9/11 Memorial Museum.

Summer 2010: Life Restored

World Trade Center Tree Planting
Worker Jay Martino looks up at one of the first Swamp White Oak trees planted around the World Trade Center Memorial Plaza. August 28, 2010. Photo © David Goldman/Getty Images

A sagging economy diminished the need for office space. Construction progressed in fits and starts through 2009. Nevertheless, the new World Trade Center began to take shape. The concrete and steel core of 1 World Trade Center (Freedom Tower) rose, and Maki's Tower 4 was well underway. In August 2009, a final symbolic beam from the Ground Zero debris was returned to the World Trade Center site where it could become part of the Memorial Museum Pavilion. By the summer of 2010, all of the steel supports were installed and most of the concrete was poured. In August, the first of the planned 400 new trees were planted on the cobblestone plaza surrounding the two memorial pools.

September 2010: Steel Column Returned

Restored Column at the NY World Trade Center
A 70-foot steel column from a destroyed World Trade Center building is installed on the site of the September 11 Memorial Museum. September 7, 2010. Photo © Mario Tama/Getty Images

In September 2010, nearly nine years after the terrorist attacks in New York City, a 70-foot steel column from a destroyed World Trade Center building was returned to Ground Zero and installed on the site of the National 9/11 Memorial Museum.

October 2010: Park51 Controversy

Park51 Muslim Community Center
This artist's rendering by SOMA Architects shows plans for the interior of Park51, the Muslim Community Center near Ground Zero in New York City. Artist's Rendering © 2010 SOMA Architects

Many people criticized plans to build a Muslim community center at 51 Park Place, a street near Ground Zero, the site of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Supporters praised the plans, saying that the modernist building would serve a wide range of community needs. However, the proposed project was costly and it was uncertain whether developers would ever raise enough funds.

May 2011: Osama bin Laden Killed; Towers Rise

Church Street and Vesey Street at Ground Zero on May 2, 2011
New Yorkers react to news of the death of Osama bin Laden at the intersection of Church Street and Vesey Street at Ground Zero in New York City. May 2, 2011. Photo © Jemal Countess/Getty Images

For many Americans, the killing of lead terrorist Osama bin Laden brought a sense of closure, and progress at Ground Zero inspired new confidence in the future. When President Obama visited the site on May 5, 2011, Freedom Tower had risen more than halfway to its final height. Now known as One World Trade Center, the tower began to dominate the World Trade Center skyscape.

Plan for the south pool at the National 9/11 Memorial
Plan for the south pool at the National 9/11 Memorial. Rendering by Squared Design Lab, Courtesy of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum

Ten years after the terrorist attacks, New York put the finishing touches on the National 9/11 Memorial (Reflecting Absence). While other parts of the World Trade Center complex are still under construction, the completed memorial plaza and pools represent a promise of renewal. The National 9/11 Memorial opens for families of 9/11 victims on September 11, 2011 and for the public on September 12. More »

Photo of people inside 1 WTC looking out windows at beam being raised to top of building.
One World Trade Center Became the Tallest Building In New York City on April 30, 2012. Photo by Spencer Platt ©2012 Getty Images

On April 30, 2012, 1 World Trade Center became the tallest building in New York City. A steel beam was hoisted to 1271 feet, surpassing the Empire State Building's height of 1,250 feet. Originally called Freedom Tower, the new David Childs design for One WTC topped out at a symbolic 1776 feet. More »

2013: A Symbolic Height of 1776 Feet

Final Sections Of Spire Atop 1WTC, May 2013
Final Sections Of Spire Atop 1WTC, May 2013. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

The 408-foot spire was installed in sections atop 1 World Trade Center tower (see larger view). The final 18th section was put into place on May 10, 2013, making the once known "Freedom Tower" a symbolic 1,776 feet high—a reminder that the United States declared its independence in 1776. By September 2013, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere was getting its facade of glass, one level at a time, from the bottom up.

Four World Trade Center in 2013
Four World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, September 2013. Photo ©Jackie Craven

By September 2013, the skyscraper designed by Fumihiko Maki and Associates was nearing completion. A temporary Certificate of Occupancy was issued to open the building to new tenants. Although its opening was an historic event and a milestone for Lower Manhattan, 4WTC has been difficult to lease. When the office building opened on November 2013, its problematic location remained within a construction site. More »

2014: National September 11 Memorial Museum Opens

The 9/11 Memorial Museum opened to the public on May 21, 2014. The Memorial Plaza—including Michael Arad's Reflecting Absence, Peter Walker's landscaping, Snøhetta's Museum Pavilion, and Davis Brody Bond's subterranean Museum space—was now complete.

A security guard stands inside One World Trade Center, which opened on November 3, 2014
A security guard stands inside One World Trade Center, which opened on November 3, 2014 in New York City. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

No longer called Freedom Tower, 1 World Trade Center officially opened on a beautiful Fall day in New York City. Thirteen years after 9/11,  the publisher Condé Nast moved thousands of employees into 24 of the lowest floors of 1WTC, the centerpiece of Lower Manhattan's redevelopment. More »

2015: One World Observatory Opens

People looking out two-story windows at One World Observatory at 1WTC, open to the public
One World Observatory, Floors 100 to 102 of 1WTC, open to the public. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

On May 29, 2015, three floors of One World Trade Center opened to the public—for a fee. Five dedicated Sky Pods transport willing tourists up to levels 100, 101, and 102 of the 1WTC building. The  SEE FOREVER™ Theater on floor 102 ensures a panoramic experience even on the most foggy of days. The City Pulse Sky Portal and floor-to-ceiling viewing areas provide opportunities for unforgettable, uninterrupted vistas. Restaurants, cafes, and gift shops are ready to suck the money from your pockets as you enjoy the views.

Spanish Architect Santiago Calatrava inside the World Trade Center Transportation Hub
Spanish Architect Santiago Calatrava at the 2016 Opening of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub. Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images News / Getty Images

Spanish engineer and architect Santiago Calatrava again tried to explain away cost overruns at the opening of the, well, subway station. It's unexpectedly breathtaking for the casual observer, functional to the commuter, and expensive to the taxpayer.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne says this: "I found it structurally overwrought and emotionally underwhelming, straining for higher meaning, eager to wring some last drops of mournful power from a site that is already crammed with official, semi-official and indirect memorials." (March 23, 2016) More »