For all of its staggering construction statistics—90 million pounds of steel, a million square feet of glass, enough concrete to build a sidewalk from New York to Chicago—One World Trade Center’s most fundamental building blocks are intangible. It is made up of stories, no more or less than words, of those who built it, those who use it and those who will never see it.
Many of the stories are about those who lost their lives. Millions of other, intangible, losses, hover in solidarity around the souls of the 2,983 people who died at Ground Zero in 2001 and 1993. Many survivors, including those who were not downtown or even in New York City on 9/11, continue to suffer from an emptiness that they cannot quite define. Over the course of speaking to dozens of people about the new World Trade Center, I relived those losses. The first story shared was always about 9/11—where they were, how they escaped, and why they were compelled to rebuild. It was a holy ritual.
Each conversation revealed the interconnectedness of the past and present. These stories provided the psychological means, critical to the mourning and rebuilding process, of reconciling loss. With every retelling, the past comes alive and grief recedes a little bit more. It is the way we rebuild our lives—and our buildings.