By CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor of Risk & Insurance®.
NEW YORK--The last time I stepped this close to where the World Trade Center once stood, it was the pinnacle of American commerce.
Trains rumbled into the underground stations, people of all stripes were bustling in and out of cabs and limos, retailers were alive with the sound of money, goods and services changing hands and breakneck pace.
That was shortly before Sept. 11. Then came the cataclysm, and the collapse of the Twin Towers and World Trade Center 7. Dozens of smaller buildings in and around the vast complex were also damaged.
In the days that followed, the destruction was so thick, so dense, that I wondered what it would take just to clear out the rubble. In the end, it took crews well over a year just to remove the twisted wreckage from what had in fact become a graveyard. It would take sill more time to clear the site for reconstruction.
Now that reconstruction is in full swing, the sounds of cranes, dump trucks, saws, and hammers have once more added to the Manhattan din. Vibrating diesel generators supply power to the construction equipment, and crews can feel the rumble of the No. 1 and 9 subway trains beneath their feet.
"Building the future of Lower Manhattan" reads the back of one of the hard hats worn by a construction worker.
Contractors -- just about all of them men -- yell back and forth for instruction behind the jungle of steel lattice and rebar. Their sounds are a reassuring measure that life once again is sprouting forth from what was a big pit of death.
"This is a very special project," said construction insurance broker Joe Russo, senior vice president with Willis of New York Inc. "There's nothing run of the mill and everybody's aware of it from the guy who sweeps the floor to the guy working on a steel beam."
The depth of the excavation at the 16-acre site is enormous. Standing at ground level, what contractors call "the East Bathtub," the big hole from which the foundations of future WTC towers 2, 3 and 4 will rise, drops 100 feet. If you fall from the makeshift walkway overlooking the site, you die.
Construction workers are not allowed within six feet off the edge of a floor without being tied off, said Mike Castelli, senior vice president and Chartis WTC Site Manager within Chartis' Commercial Casualty Division.
He estimates there are about 45 safety personnel managers on the job site representing contractors, subcontractors, developers and consultants overseeing an estimated 3,500 workers on the 16-acre site.
Come December, as many as 5,000 workers will be on the site, said Shari F. Natovitz, vice president of risk management for Silverstein Properties Inc., in an interview with Risk & Insurance® June 28. "Nothing is a little thing because it's New York City and it's a big project."
Already, the footprint of World Trade Center 2 is starting to take shape, and World Trade Center 3 is already rising from its foundation. World Trade Center 4, just a few steps to the south is already more than 38 floors high.
The East Bathtub is the site of the towers bring redeveloped by real estate developer Larry A. Silverstein. Next to it, but still more than 30 feet down, the beginning of the new underground mass transit PATH station, controlled by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is visible
World Trade Center 1, known as the Freedom Tower, juts out into the sky as workers add about one floor a week to the signature skyscraper of the entire complex. The Freedom Tower will reach a height of 1,776 feet, to commemorate the year the nation declared independence from Britain.
The Port Authority has jurisdiction over reconstruction of the PATH, the Freedom Tower and the tree-lined World Trade Center Memorial, which represents sacred ground for thousands of people in the United States and around the world.
On this day, crews were testing the water pumps to the two huge memorial pools, built in the exact footprints of where each of the Twin Towers once stood. Water flowed gently down the four sides of the massive back slabs and into a collection basin in the middle.
The names of everyone who died in the Twin Tower attacks are inscribed on the edges of the black pools. Shielded for now, the names will be revealed at a Sept. 11 ceremony to commemorate the attacks.
September 1, 2011
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