The massive World Trade Center at the southern tip of Manhattan, highlighted by what were then the two tallest skyscrapers on the planet, opened on this day in history, April 4, 1973.
The official ceremony was hosted by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller of New York and Gov. William Cahill of New Jersey. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey publicly funded the World Trade Center.
The World Trade Center “should, because of its importance, become a living 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,” American architect Minoru Yamasaki said following the completion of his vision.
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The World Trade Center is instead mourned today as a terrifying testament to man’s inhumanity to man.
Americans should be celebrating today the Golden Anniversary of Yamasaki’s mammoth skyscraper complex.
The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor in the 1980s, showing its relation to the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. (R. Krubner/ClassicStock/Getty Images)
It glimmered triumphantly over the nation’s largest city, New York Harbor, the mouth of the Hudson River, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty — over America itself.
But the towers collapsed catastrophically only 28 years after they opened, live on television, as the world gasped in horror during the beyond-tragic terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“The World Trade Center should, because of its importance, become a living representation of man’s belief in humanity.” — Minoru Yamasaki, architect
More than 2,750 people were killed in the World Trade Center that day in New York City, an event that altered the trajectory of global history. (Another 184 were killed that day in the attack on the Pentagon and another 40 people were killed in Pennsylvania, when one of the hijacked planes crashed after passengers attempted to retake the plane.)
The footprints of the Twin Towers are the site today of the 9/11 Memorial, a pair of reflecting pools and man-made waterfalls surrounded by the names of those killed in the attacks.
The second tower of the World Trade Center bursts into flames after being hit by a hijacked airplane in New York City in this Sept. 11, 2001 file photograph. (REUTERS/Sara K. Schwittek)
The World Trade Center rightfully inhabits a reverent and haunting place in American culture today.
But the Twin Towers in their time were only tolerated, not loved, say New York City historians and architecture experts.
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“The World Trade Center never captured the imagination of New Yorkers, and the world, the way the Empire State has,” author Mark Kingwell wrote in “Nearest Thing to Heaven,” a 2006 history of the Empire State Building, which stood as the tallest skyscraper on Earth for 40 years before surpassed by the Twin Towers.
He added, “It is not too harsh to say they are mourned more in memory than they were ever liked in fact; and the mourning is surely for loss of life, and innocence, rather than for any architectural or symbolic reason.”
Architect Minoru Yamasaki, designer of the World Trade Center, was interviewed in Manhattan on Sept. 17, 1973. (Jim Nightingale/ Newsday RM via Getty Images)
Construction plodded along slowly amid disdain from New Yorkers while the city, and the nation, grappled with crises.
Construction began in 1966. The North Tower was completed in December 1970. The South Tower was finished in July 1971, nearly two years before the opening ceremonies.
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The United States was being torn apart by political strife over the Vietnam War, while New York City was on the brink of economic meltdown.
“It seemed so inappropriate to have something so excessive rising up in the New York City skyline at the time,” Greg Young, co-host and producer of “The Bowery Boys” podcast, a popular chronicle of New York City history, told Fox News Digital.
“It seemed so inappropriate to have something so excessive rising up in the New York City skyline at the time.” — Greg Young, “The Bowery Boys” podcast
The World Trade Center became embroiled in America’s culture wars during the Hard Hat Riot of 1970.
Anti-American protests erupted around the country after four Kent State students were killed in protests on May 4, 1970.
New York City Mayor John Lindsay ordered City Hall flags flown at half-mast.
Demonstrators marched with American flags during the Hard Hat Riot, New York City, New York, May 1970. Working-class, pro-American demonstrators clashed with anti-Vietnam War protestors. (Stuart Lutz/Gado/Getty Images)
Four days later, thousands of workers at the World Trade Center and other job sites, many of whom had brothers, sisters, sons and daughters fighting in Vietnam, marched down from the towers, beat up hippies and stormed City Hall in anger, singing the “The Star-Spangled Banner” on the way.
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The mayor relented and raised the American flags to full flight — but only after 150 people were battered and bloodied on the streets. Forty people suffered head wounds and six men were beaten unconscious during the Hard Hat Riot.
Young said New Yorkers “had a complicated relationship” with the World Trade Center.
Its completion was, at the very least, a brazen testament to American exceptionalism.
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The United States fought the Cold War against the Soviet Union, the hot war in Vietnam and completed all six of the only manned moon landings in human history — all while constructing, side by side, the tallest skyscrapers the world had ever seen.
The Brooklyn Bridge in front of a 9/11 Tribute in Light in New York City. (Fox News Photo/Joshua Comins)
“At 110 stories each, 1 WTC, or the North Tower, and 2 WTC, the South Tower, provided nearly 10 million square feet of office space. Reaching over a quarter of a mile into the sky, they were the tallest buildings in NYC, and for a brief period, they were the tallest buildings in the world,” writes the 9/11 Memorial.
“As of 2001, the WTC housed more than 430 businesses from 28 different countries — roughly 50,000 workers. They attracted tens of thousands of tourists and commuters every day.”
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Writes the website of The Bowery Boys podcast, “Everything grand and intolerable about New York City in the late 1960s/early 1970s was embodied here in these two impossibly tall shafts of metal.”