The images are probably the most famous of the 21st century. Almost everyone remembers where they were when they heard the incredible news on September 11, 2001: The World Trade Center in New York, one of the central symbols of capitalism and the free world, has become the target of Islamist attacks.
Due to the precisely planned and executed terrorist attacks of September 11th – two passenger planes were hijacked and chased into the twin towers one after the other – these collapsed only 20 minutes apart; 2,753 people died. It was a sunny morning in New York, afternoon in Europe. The whole world sat in front of the television and stared in bewilderment at the incomprehensible events.
A Goliath overthrown by a David
There were 102 minutes between the first tower being hit and the second tower collapsing. A good hour and a half, during which the feeling of supposed security in the western world shattered. This “huge success” by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization in the United States was part of a whole series of attacks in recent years. But in his sheer size and despicable, lethal calculations, he was a beacon for Islamist terrorism worldwide.
The twin towers of the World Trade Center represented the capitalist giant USA; for New York, the world capital of the free world; for the enemy image par excellence in the West. A Goliath brought down by a David with a (technological) slingshot.
As early as September 1962, the Japanese-American architect Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986) was commissioned to manage the WTC project. The cornerstone was laid in August 1966. It is ironic that the designer of what would become the tallest building in the world was afraid of heights.
Maybe that’s why he chose very slim windows, only 46 centimeters wide, as a stylistic device for the World Trade Center. They made the twin towers appear windowless and accounted for less than a third of the facade area. A total of 43,600 windows were installed – windows from which, on that horrible September 11, 2001, people jumped in desperation from the flames and deadly smoke.
When the first tenants moved into the North Tower (WTC 1) in December 1970, it wasn’t quite finished yet. In July 1971 the shell of the South Tower (WTC 2) was completed. The official inauguration of the WTC took place on April 4, 1973 – and even then it took another four years until it was fully completed in 1977. About 50,000 people from 28 countries worked in the World Trade Center.
In addition, about 140,000 visitors came daily for the view in the restaurants of the twin towers. The 417 meter high North Tower replaced the 1931 completed and 381 meter high Empire State Building as the tallest building in the world.
But as early as 1974, the World Trade Center had to cede the prestigious title to the 442-meter Sears Tower in Chicago. With the respective increase in antenna masts on the roof, the competition dragged on until the year 2000 and up to 527 meters.
Not the first attack on the World Trade Center
Around 200,000 tons of steel and 325,000 cubic meters of concrete were used in the construction of the Twin Towers. The construction should withstand hurricanes with wind speeds of 300 kilometers per hour – and the worst earthquakes. At that time, in the early 1970s, there was no such thing as a “bombardment” with huge passenger planes. The north and south towers each had 99 elevators, almost a quarter of which reached speeds of up to almost 30 kilometers per hour. They were of no use in the 9/11 conflagration.
It wasn’t the first al Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center.
In February 1993, six terrorists detonated a 700-kilo bomb in the North Tower’s underground car park; six people died. The goal was probably actually to collapse the north tower and let it fall on the south tower. But the explosive power was too low for that.
It was not until eight and a half years later that the hated symbol of the western world crumbled to dust – in the second attempt.