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World Trade Center: Facts, Construction, Bombings & Rebuilding

Instructor: Christopher Prokes

Chris is an instructional designer and college faculty member. He has a Master's Degree in Education and also umpires baseball.

The World Trade Center and the Twin Towers are a well-known symbol of the United States in the twenty-first century. In this lesson, you will learn about the unique construction, its multiple terrorist attacks, and American perseverance to see it rise above the skyline of New York once again. Finally, take a short quiz to see what you learned.

The World Trade Center

Located in the lower part of Manhattan in New York City, the World Trade Center was the name of a complex of buildings that were an undeniable symbol of modern America, especially the Twin Towers, the two tallest buildings in the complex. Uniquely constructed in the late 1960s and 1970s, the purpose of the complex was to increase New York's presence as a center of international trade. Twice the World Trade Center was a victim of terrorist attacks. Terrorist attacks are acts of violence against citizens perpetrated for the purpose of achieving political or religious goals. On September 11, 2001 the World Trade center was the center of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. History. The center itself did not survive the attack; however, a new complex has been constructed and the location endures as an American icon. Follow the story of this hallowed locale through an examination of its background and construction, the wounds it suffered, and its bright future.

Unique Simplicity: Planning and Construction

The World Trade Center traces its roots to the 1940s when city planners in the greater New York area wanted to build a center of international trade. Why New York City? New York City badly needed revitalization in certain places; it was also a city with a large population, and it was in close proximity to major transportation. Many designs were considered, many buildings and streets razed and re-routed, and many workers and materials were needed. And because it was New York City, the buildings had to be the tallest in the world. Enter the World Trade Center, and the Twin Towers as the main attraction.

This was to be a completely new approach; normal construction techniques were thrown out. Rather than build a strong internal steel structure with surrounding walls, the Twin Towers would have their exterior walls be the strong part. Columns were placed two feet apart. Another unique feature included the use of sky lobbies, where elevators from the lower floors would drop off passengers to take another elevator to higher floors. Prefabricated pieces of the building were also built and raised to speed up construction, something not done before. Cranes from Australia were imported and appropriately dubbed 'kangaroo cranes'. Commencing in 1966, construction of the Twin Towers concluded in 1973.

Twin Towers under construction, 1971
WTC

FACT: 200,000 tons of steel, 425,000 cubic yards of concrete, and 43,600 windows were used to build the Twin Towers. Combined, they had nearly 100 elevators.

A Symbol of America: Pride and Prejudice

After the Twin Towers, additional buildings were constructed to bring the total number in the complex to seven. Still, the Twin Towers were the most visible. It is nearly impossible for a generation of Americans to think of New York City's skyline without seeing the Twin Towers. They were an undeniable symbol of America.

World Trade Center/Twin Towers, pre-9/11
WTC

Terrorists knew them to be an important symbol, too, and they knew that striking them down was a statement against America as a whole. On February 26, 1993 at 12:18pm, a small group of terrorists detonated a bomb in an underground parking facility at one of the towers, allegedly trying to knock one tower into another. Six people were killed, over 1,000 were injured, and the damages numbered in the millions of dollars. However, the towers stood tall in the aftermath, a continued presence, and deflated the terrorists' goal of destruction.

FACT: Four terrorists were tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison for their role in the 1993 attacks.

September 11, 2001: A National Tragedy

Despite the failure of the 1993 attack, there would be another attempt eight years later. Terrorists affiliated with the al-Qaeda terror network planned and executed the deadliest terrorist attack ever on American soil. On September 11, 2001, hijacked planes crashed in Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and into each of the Twin Towers. Thousands died both in the planes and at each location.

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