Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Environmental Aftermath: "The World Trade Center Is a Living Symbol of Man's Dedication to World Peace. [t]he World Trade Center Should ... Become a Representation of Man's Belief in Humanity, His Need for Individual Dignity, His Beliefs in the Cooperation of Men, and through Cooperation, His Ability to Find Greatness.". (Focus)

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Environmental Aftermath: "The World Trade Center Is a Living Symbol of Man's Dedication to World Peace. [t]he World Trade Center Should ... Become a Representation of Man's Belief in Humanity, His Need for Individual Dignity, His Beliefs in the Cooperation of Men, and through Cooperation, His Ability to Find Greatness.". (Focus)

Article excerpt

On 11 September 2001, over a million tons of steel, dust, and debris fell to earth on the island of Manhattan. Where once the two giant towers of the World Trade Center had stood, now ruins lay in clouds of smoke. The buildings, symbols of America's international economic influence, had been destroyed by terrorist attacks, and over 4,000 lives had been lost. When two hijacked airplanes fully loaded with 91,000 liters of jet fuel flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the resulting explosions and fires burning at over 1,800 [degrees] F caused the buildings to collapse into themselves. The enormous heat, combined with the burning of a vast number of materials such as asbestos, concrete, computers, carpeting, and furniture, created a gaseous cloud of potentially toxic dust and smoke that took weeks to dissipate.

Following the initial shock of the largest death toll ever from terrorism on U.S. soil, federal, state, and local officials along with scientists across the nation began the enormous process of recovering human remains, removing and disposing of debris, and evaluating the potential continued health threat to emergency responders and the surrounding community from environmental exposures related to the attacks.

A Storied History

The idea for a central site dedicated to world trade had been considered for New York City since the end of World War II, but the right conditions of finance, political will, and appropriate location didn't come together until the early 1960s. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the city agency in charge of transportation matters, was responsible for commissioning the monumental venture.

The goal was to build 10 million square feet of new commercial office space on a 16-acre site, while also accommodating future and existing subterranean railways. Inevitably, this meant building upward to unprecedented heights. The project would put to the test construction and design technologies that were new at the time and that represented real challenges to builders, architects, and construction engineers.

With this challenge in mind, chief architect Minoru Yamasaki studied over 100 different building configurations before choosing the concept of two twin towers rising from an open plaza flanked by three other low-rise structures. Faced with the complexities of building to new heights, Yamasaki and engineers John Skilling and Les Robertson worked to seamlessly merge design and structure.

They employed an innovative structural model consisting of a hollow tube made of steel columns set only 22 inches apart. This exoskeleton of steel lattices acted as wind bracing to resist outside forces and made it unnecessary to have indoor columns in the office spaces. In the upper floors there was as much as 40,000 square feet of open office space per floor. The steel lattice was connected to floor supports radiating from a steel central core containing elevators and stairs.

The enormous weight of the structure was anchored to the bedrock located 75 feet below ground that makes possible downtown Manhattan's high-rise skyline. Given the proximity of the site to the Hudson River, the whole complex had to be contained in a "bathtub," an impermeable wall more than 3,000 feet long encircling the excavation site. The below-ground foundation was used to house seven levels of stores, subway lines, commuter rails, and garages. Excavation to build the foundation removed over a million cubic yards of earth and rock. Instead of being trucked away for disposal, excavated soil was used to create 23 acres of fill in the Hudson River adjacent to the World Trade Center site. The new grounds claimed from the river were developed into a housing complex known as Battery Park City, where more than 9,000 people live in 25 buildings.

After seven years of construction, the World Trade Center ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on 4 April 1973. …

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