As we walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and gaze at the lower-Manhattan skyline, it is impossible not to muse on the absence of the Twin Towers.
The buildings began ugly. Why build such huge, nondescript monoliths? Did building two of them somehow make it beautiful? In fact, the two were striking, unique: One hideous building became the absurdity of identical ugly twins.
Aesthetically, Lewis Mumford was right, back in 1970, when they were building the things: “The Port Authority’s World Trade Center, 110 stories high, is a characteristic example of the purposeless giantism and technological exhibitionism that are now eviscerating the living tissue of every great city. Dinosaurs were handicapped by insufficient brains, and the Word Trade Center is only another dinosaur.”
The buildings were, however, for a boy born in 1970, part of the fabric of the world. The Twin Towers and graffiti on the subway cars: for all I knew, they had always been there. The subway-car graffiti vanished in the eighties.
On Memorial Day, 1983, Skyscraperman scaled one of the Twin Towers and then said: “The reason I climbed the World Trade Center was to call attention to the inability to conduct firefighting and rescue operations in the upper floors of super-tall buildings. You mark my words, if we don’t address this soon, the day will come when terrorists will attack an American skyscraper and thousands of innocent people will die because we won’t be prepared to rescue them.”
SpiderDan knew what he was talking about.
After the bastards knocked the buildings down in 2001, I thought to myself: Those buildings were always a provocation to the gods. Why build something that provokes the forces of violence so boldly, so baldly?
Some people died on impact, sure enough, and that could have happened at any altitude. But most of the casualties (God rest them) died because they were up so high and surrounded by a behemoth of towering steel.
To make a daily habit of brewing coffee and flipping on your computer a thousand feet above the ground? Were we meant to inhabit such an altitude?
Who developed the technology needed to make the 9/11 attacks successful? The enemy? No. We did. The terrorists are not a genuine military adversary. But, on the other hand, it is horrifying to realize that every machine we build can be used against us.
The Twin Towers were not built to a god-flouting height and scale just for the sake of their occupants. They were built to be seen from the outside, to dazzle and catapult our minds. The 9/11 victims died as sacrificial lambs for our delusions of grandeur.
I miss the World Trade Center nonetheless. I cannot imagine that the replacement tower will be inspiring or even architecturally interesting. I guess it has to be built. But I am sure that, when it is finally done, it will seem like the late, weak counter-jab of the loser of a fistfight.