September 11, 20 years on: How America rebuilt from tragedy

11 September 2021, 15:08

The rebuild took years
The rebuild took years. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Speaking from the rubble of the World Trade Centre towers, President George W Bush was repeatedly interrupted by a crowd who said they couldn't hear him.

Shouting back through a megaphone, the commander in chief assured the audience he could hear them, "and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon" he quipped.

He might well have been referring to the imminent dispatch of American forces to Afghanistan - when US forces and allied Afghan militias overthrew the Taliban regime as punishment for harbouring Al Qaeda, the people who brought the buildings down.

Flash forward 20 years and the coalition America built to keep the Taliban's insurgency down has failed its mission there.

But even if the government they built up will not endure, there is a better symbol of defiance and the American desire to fight back and recover when it faces a crisis.

A pair of people look on at the World Trade Centre site
A pair of people look on at the World Trade Centre site. Picture: Alamy
Construction under way at the World Trade Centre site
Construction under way at the World Trade Centre site. Picture: Alamy

At 104 stories and 1,776 feet high, One World Trade Centre now stands at the site where the twin towers collapsed. Foundation work began in 2006.

Similar to the structures it replaces, the tower dominates the New York City skyline, a symbol of the US recovery from tragedy. It is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and cost $3.9 billion to construct.

Work begins by ground zero
Work begins by ground zero. Picture: Alamy
The US rebuilt the site, a symbol of its response to the devastating terror attack
The US rebuilt the site, a symbol of its response to the devastating terror attack. Picture: Alamy
One World Trade Centre towered over much of New York even before it was completed
One World Trade Centre towered over much of New York even before it was completed. Picture: Alamy
The World Trade Centre site takes shape beside New York's existing towers
The World Trade Centre site takes shape beside New York's existing towers. Picture: Alamy

At night, a beacon emits a horizontal beam of light that can be seen for miles.

Formerly referred to as Freedom Tower, even its official height in feet evokes a key date - 1776 was the year America declared independence from Britain.

The World Trade Centre museum under construction, a focal point of memorials for 9/11
The World Trade Centre museum under construction, a focal point of memorials for 9/11. Picture: Alamy
The tower is the largest in the Western Hemisphere
The tower is the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Picture: Alamy

At a ceremony in 2012, President Barack Obama signed a note on a beam, which read: "We remember, we rebuild, we come back stronger!"

It does not stand alone. Also built at the site are 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 World Trade Centre. Of these, 2 is due to be completed next year and 5 in 2028.

One World Trade Centre, just like the twin towers, has taken its place as a distinctive New York landmark
One World Trade Centre, just like the twin towers, has taken its place as a distinctive New York landmark. Picture: Alamy
The footprints of the twin towers remain as reflecting pools, as part of the memorial to 9/11's victims
The footprints of the twin towers remain as reflecting pools, as part of the memorial to 9/11's victims. Picture: Alamy

There is also the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, which lists victims of the September 11 attacks and preserves the footprints of the fallen towers as reflecting pools.

It has since provided a focal point for memorials to the tragedy, as it did on the 20th anniversary.

Along with the rebuilt World Trade Centre site, it serves as a powerful symbol of American recovery, defiance and endurance that far outshines political turmoil seen in the run-up to Saturday.

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