MEMORIES OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTER
Dr. George Thomas
Dr. George Thomas
In 1990, I had made a visit to the USA for training at the Texas Heart Institute, Houston. But the trip was more than cardiology training. It turned out to be a historic and memorable visit. I could see the World Trade Center (WTC).
On my way back I decided to visit my cousin Saji at New York. I had booked my flight on the then famous Pan Am airlines. As usual I requested a window seat so that I did not miss the takeoff and landing views. I was lucky to get one. We took off from the swanky Houston Intercontinental Airport and proceeded to New York. After three and half hour of flying time, I could see the New York skyline. I could get a real picture card view of the Statue of Liberty. But the most striking sight was the shining towers of the World Trade Center jutting out like two fingers in a victory sign. After circling a few times, the plane landed and parked at the Pan Am Worldport – the exclusive Pan Am terminal at the JFK Airport. As luck would have it, I could see this unique flying saucer shaped architectural wonder. Now I hear this terminal building is going to be demolished. Out of the airport, I went off to my cousin’s place at New Rochelle – a suburb in NY.
As a good host, my cousin Saji took a few days off to show me around the Big Apple. On 9th July, we decided to explore Manhattan. We drove down to Dyre Avenue subway station and parked the car there. After a few minutes wait, we got the No 5 train. The train was relatively empty. After about an hour’s journey underground and on the surface, we reached the Brooklyn Bridge station. It was from here we started our Manhattan exploration. Most of the important sights at Manhattan are within walking distance. I was impatient “Hey Saji, let’s go straight to the WTC”. Although there were other tall buildings, the WTC had a mystique about it. So we walked straight to the Twin Towers.
The spectacle of the twin towers from afar was awesome. As we reached near, my excitement got wilder. We entered the portals of the building and took the escalator to the lobby of WTC Tower 2. We bought the tickets and took one of the express elevators to the 107th floor or the Deck. These high speed elevators demonstrate how gravity works. While going up gravity weighs you down and the weight increases and while coming down you get into a relative weight loss with your tummy turning within. From the Deck we could take an escalator to the Rooftop Promenade above the 110th floor. We were standing on the world’s highest observatory platform. We were lucky as it was a calm day. On windy days this observatory was closed for public. The view from the top was spectacular. We could see the whole of Manhattan including the many bridges, skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty. From this height, the fairy tale streets below seemed to be bustling with matchbox cars. We could hear the breeze whistling into our ears. It seems the buildings were made to tilt a few degrees on the face of a strong wind. It was then I could understand the real meaning of ‘on top of the world’ feeling. Looking upwards to the heavens, I could not but exclaim what the Psalmist said “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1 The Holy Bible).
The WTC was designed by Minoru Yamasaki and built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Construction began in 1966 and was dedicated on April 1973. The statistics are mind boggling. 1.2 million cubic yards of earth was excavated during construction. The earth was put in the Hudson River and formed a new land of 23.5 acres called the Battery Park City. The complex had 12 million square feet of space. Every floor was column fee and one acre in size! Each tower had 23 high speed elevators, 72 local elevators and 4 giant freight elevators. The express elevator took just 58 seconds to reach the top. The complex also housed the largest shopping mall.
After eating a hot dog at the cafeteria, we left the site around afternoon. We walked to the South Ferry to take a boat to the Liberty Island. Even as we moved away from the land, the image of the twin towers would not fade. Then I was a mere tourist admiring the twin towers among other skyscrapers. I never realized that I had just visited a unique structure in the history of mankind. That was the phallic symbol of human economic power. About a decade later, the buildings were destroyed in a decisive historical event. There will be many taller buildings but none can match the eminence of the WTC in the history of mankind. Now 20 years later, I still cannot forget that historic visit. The buildings may not be there. But the very thought that I was among the very few lucky ones who could set foot on top of the WTC is a humbling feeling.
Photo 1: The Pan Am Worldport at JFK airport
Photo 2: Approaching the WTC by road
Photo 3: Right under the structure
Photo 4: The 2 WTC (South Tower) entrance
Photo 5: On top of the world! The rooftop observation deck.
Photo 6: The 1 WTC (North Tower) as seen from atop the South tower.
Photo 7,8: Views from the top
Photo 9: A view from the sea on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty
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