The Evolution Of ‘Freedom’
On August 15, 2012, 10:45 AM by Andrew Belonsky
The name “Freedom Tower” may have started as right wing propaganda but it’s more appropriate – and inspiring – than “One World Trade Center”.
Over the course of 11 years, a 16-acre piece of property in Lower Manhattan has gone by no less than five names. On September 10, 2001, the World Trade Center complex as a whole was colloquially referred to as the Twin Towers. After those buildings and their neighbors were tragically destroyed, the site became known as “Ground Zero”. As a replacement structure began to take shape in 2003, the zone added yet another–and more aspirational–identity to the list: Freedom Tower. Five years later, “Freedom Tower” transformed into One World Trade Center, albeit only partially, as a lot of people still call the building Freedom Tower — including me.
I made that admission a few weeks ago as a friend and I looked across the East River at the single protrusion rising from Lower Manhattan. My friend balked, “‘Freedom Tower’ is just a piece of right-wing rhetoric concocted and nurtured during the rabidly patriotic, borderline jingoistic era that sprang up after 9/11!” I had to agree, erroneously crediting George W. Bush with the patriotic coinage. But it was actually another Republican named George who gave us “Freedom Tower”: George Pataki, Governor of New York at the time of the attacks.
“As we look to the future, let us draw inspiration from just how far we’ve come since the attacks,” Pataki said in a 2003 speech about “the seeds of renewal” being planted at Ground Zero. “By the fifth anniversary of the attack, September 11th, 2006, we will top off a new icon — the 1,776 foot tall Freedom Tower. For all who come here, no matter the direction, they will witness the tower’s imprint on the horizon — and they will know our determination to overcome evil.” Nine years later, that tower remains under construction.
When “Freedom Tower” was rebranded as “One World Trade Center” in 2008, Pataki’s position was one of ambivalence. Said Pataki to the New York Times, “…On one hand, [One World Trade Center] evokes pride in the sense that the trade center is back [in name]. On the other hand, we’re not going to replace what was there. We’re going to build beyond what was there.” He then added, “It is a little troubling to me that again there is a One World Trade Center because a lot of great people and heroes died [there]. I think that name should be reserved for those who did die on that horrible day.”
The former governor made roughly the same argument when conservatives turned the name change into a cause célèbre the following year. “The Freedom Tower is not simply another piece of real estate and not just a name for marketing purposes,” he said. “In design and name, it is symbolic of our commitment to rise above the attacks on September 11th. Where 1 and 2 World Trade Center once stood, there will be a memorial with two voids to honor the heroes we lost – and, in my view, those addresses should never be used again.”
THE TWIN TOWERS AND FREE MARKET FREEDOM
One World Trade Center and the rest of the complex weren’t always so culturally sacred. Built as part of an effort to revitalize Lower Manhattan, the Twin Towers were first and foremost emblems of America’s economic acumen. They stood tall and formidable during a Cold War in which justifying, sustaining and spreading capitalism were American obsessions.
It was this entrepreneurial crusade that fueled architect Minoru Yamasaki’s vision. “The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man’s dedication to world peace,” said Yamaski at the complex’s 1973 dedication. “The World Trade Center should become a living representation of man’s belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his belief in the cooperation of men, and through this cooperation his ability to find greatness.” When they were destroyed, those twin economic citadels were home to financial and insurance firms like Morgan Stanley, Marsh & McLennan and Cantor Fitzgerald, a bonds giant that lost nearly 700 employees that day in September.
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