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The renaissance of Ground Zero

The surviving Double Check statue.The massive construction site that is Ground Zero has been shrouded from the public view for some time as workers rebuild the World Trade Center.

But a fascinating program series produced by Stephen Spielberg called Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero has given viewers an inside look at the work being done to reclaim and renew the site of the greatest terrorist disaster the United States has ever known.

Two perfect square recessions, each an acre in size and descending 30 feet below the surface of the earth mark the location where the Twin Towers once stood.

Referred to as “the footprints,” each granite-lined cavity has begun to murmur with the constant rush of flowing water, making them the largest man-made waterfalls in the world.

The waterfalls are the centerpiece of what will be Memorial Plaza. When the plaza officially opens on September 12, visitors will see bronze panels that surround the falls containing the names of employees, firemen, policemen and visitors who were present when the Twin Towers came down.

They will see names of passengers and crew of American Airlines flight 277 which crashed into the Pentagon, the names of passengers and crew on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania and the six people who lost their lives when the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993.

Hundreds of swamp white oaks will surround the waterfalls creating a tranquil green space for visitors and the employees who will eventually again inhabit Freedom Tower and other buildings still under construction.

On a recent evening I stood outside of Ground Zero where even at night, scores of people work amid the whir and clank and grind of massive machinery, determined to bring the World Trade Center back from the grave.


Beyond those walls I knew the new oak forest stood and among it, the “survivor pear tree” whose broken and burned trunk clung to life for two weeks before it was unearthed from under tons of metal and concrete and glass rubble. Nurtured and restored, it is a very special symbol of hope and resurrection.

Something else survived the horror and destruction of 9/11 as well. A nearly life-sized outdoor bronze sculpture of a businessman in the act of double-checking the contents of his briefcase that sat on a bench across the street from the World Trade Center plaza. Rescued from oblivion, Double Check now sits on a granite wall at One Liberty Plaza in the financial district near Wall Street, still close to Ground Zero.

As a young man, my father trained on Wall Street for three months in 1962 in preparation for his career at Merrill Lynch. I knew the company’s symbol, a huge bronze bull statue, was somewhere near Ground Zero.

I went in search of the famous bull, turned a corner and came face to face with Double Check instead. I had read about this statue, but I never expected to see it. For a second, it took my breath away.

Five months ago, I lost my father. He worked for Merrill Lynch for more than 40 years. The firm had originally provided the funds to commission a sculptor to create Double Check.

I stared at the statue, touched it and for a moment felt an eerie connection between the living and the dead.

I can’t help but think, as he intently studies the contents of his briefcase, Double Check sometimes manages a glance up toward Ground Zero, keeping tabs on the construction there and waiting, with the patience only known to a statue, for the business of life, once more, to resume.

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