History of the World Trade Center Presentation
Use Ric Burns Illustrated History of New York City to give the class a brief lecture on the history behind the Twin Towers. Explain how during the post WWII era, most of the businesses were abandoning the downtown financial district and moving to midtown. Show slides #2-3 of the Seagram’s Building and the XYZ buildings near Rockefeller Center as examples of the new International Style and the relocation of corporations uptown.
Then show image #4 of Nelson and David Rockefeller and explain how they were the power brokers behind the financing and construction of the World Trade Center. Discuss their vision that this new complex would act as a catalyst for the revival of the entire downtown business district.
After looking at images #5-9, have a student read slide #7 aloud in which Minoru Yamasaki, the architect describes his vision that the towers were supposed to be a symbol of world peace.
Focus on slide # 8.
- Why did critics dislike the towers? In other words, why didn’t the WTC enjoy the same love as the Chrysler or Empire State Building?
Show the students images #9-12 and explain how these events helped the Twin Towers win over New Yorkers. The observation deck was opened and became a huge attraction, then Philippe Petit’s tight wire act in 1974 captured the city’s imagination, and in 1976 Hollywood did a remake of King Kong, which included the beast climbing the towers. That same year the Bicentennial celebration took place with the towers as the backdrop. Through these events the Twin Towers became the iconic symbol of the city.
Have studentslook back at image #6 of the Twin Towersand ask them from their perspective,
- Before the events of 9/11, what did these towers symbolize?
Have them write down their answers and then share them with their class mate. Some possible responses are —Global Trade, Capitalism, American optimism and confidence, freedom, technology, the American Empire.
Ask them how they think Osama bin Laden viewed the Twin Towers.
- How could Bin laden and Yamasaki have such radically different viewpoints?
- Why did Bin Laden choose the Twin Towers and the Pentagon as the two major targets?
Why Was the World Trade Center a Target?
Have the class read National Geographic article “Why Symbols Become Targets” aloud. Have a different students alternate every paragraph.
In the article, Christopher Simpson, professor of communications at American University says,
The creation of symbols seems to be hard-wired into human brains and human personalities,” …People build symbols to try and express themselves, and these expressions reflect their culture.
Ask the class to evaluate this statement.
- What is it about the physical features of Twin Towers that appeals to the author?
The students should focus on this section:
The sophisticated structure of the slender, crystalline twin towers made them especially inviting symbols of America’s achievement—glass and steel pillars reaching into the clouds, their ethereal surfaces reflecting the changing moods of New York City…. The World Trade Center represented the elite and the powerful; its tenants were household names. It was the financial hub of the country, and even, some would argue, the world.
Discussion question for the class:
- What are some important symbolic landmarks in other parts of the world?
Rebuilding and Symbolism
Have the class read Daily News piece, “The towering symbol of Sept. 11: What the journey of what was once called the ‘Freedom Tower’ says about New York City”
- Ask the class their opinion on the debate over the naming of the tallest skyscraper in the Western hemisphere.
In the quote below, former governor Pataki expresses his opinion and mentions the fact that the building is 1,176 ft. Within hours of the announcement, Fox News accused the Port Authority of being anti-American, and former Gov. George Pataki called the change “troubling.”
It shouldn’t just be, you know, 1 World Trade Center,” Pataki told me. “It should have a name. And symbolizing 1776 and showing the world that we weren’t going to be frightened in the face of these attacks . . . it all logically came together that the perfect name for this is the Freedom Tower.
Ask the class to look at image #13 & 14 of One World Trade Center and ask:
- What does this new building symbolize?
- Do they think there should have been two soaring towers rather than just one?
What do they think of the argument that this area is hallowed ground like Gettysburg and we should never have built new commercial towers and a museum on this spot?