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Designing hope at One World Trade Center

The site's reconstruction is a courageous, compassionate and fitting response to the devastation of 9/11

Every day I swipe my ID card and enter the north lobby of One World Trade Center. I proceed to my office on the 46th floor and then to my desk that overlooks the Memorial’s twin reflecting pools, which occupy the original footprint of where the World Trade Center towers once stood.

I can see the Survivor Tree, the 9/11 Memorial Museum, the surrounding newly constructed towers and the Oculus, the new transportation hub. The 16-acre complex has a clear divide, 8 acres devoted to memorializing the past and 8 acres devoted to rebuilding the future.

I have spent the past two and a half years leading brand partnerships for the retail development of World Trade Center. I would arrive at my office, change into my steel toed shoes, bright orange jacket and hard hat, and proceed down to the construction site. I interacted and interfaced with every aspect of the project, with the construction workers, architects, security, retailer’s, community representatives, government organizations, residents, families of victims and survivors.

Everyone has a story, every story brought meaning and perspective to what we were building. Every beam, every piece of marble, and every nail was installed with integrity and dignity. The foundation of the “other 8 acres” is built upon the history of what was; honoring the past and promising a future.

The WTC Reflecting Pool (R.Kraus 2016)
The WTC South Tower Reflecting Pool (R.Kraus 2016)

When you wear an orange jacket and hard hat in lower Manhattan, you become a walking “Ask Siri” for all questions ranging from “where is the nearest Starbucks?” to “when is this place opening?”

I recall one morning walking from the construction site through to the memorial, when an elderly gentleman standing by the north pool stopped me to ask a question. It was his first time at World Trade Center, his hand hovered over one name that was etched into the bronze panels edging the memorial pool. It was his son’s name engraved on the memorial. He had come to see him, visit him and honor him. I have heard dozens of similar stories and anecdotes that will not have a place in any history book, but have their place in what has been rebuilt. Constructing a place of commerce and community adjacent to a monumental site of loss and devastation synthesizes two opposing forces that harmonize the same tune, that we will not surrender.

There is an indescribable power of the juxtaposition between these two narrowly divided 16 acres, this narrow intersection of tribute and triumph. This juncture is a testament to how we respond with courage, compassion and hope in the face of unspeakable destruction and loss.

While there have been lively debates and strong opinions about the design elements of the redevelopment, there is no question that the prowess and magnificence of the breathtaking architecture is nothing shy of inspirational.

Just three weeks ago, on August 16th, we opened the retail at World Trade Center. This is the first September 11th that this powerful adjacency converges, a living testament to the spirit of determination.

Today, September 11th 2016, the 15th anniversary of that devastating day that shocked our world, left lives in ruins, terrorized a nation, and forever changed the topography of our world, is a day that we will cry, remember, memorialize and honor those who perished. World Trade Center is a monument of perseverance; we will never forget what we lost and we will also never forget how to live.

It was an honor to rebuild this site, a privilege to be part of the resurgence of the spirit of New York, humbling to see and witness the pain of the past juxtaposed to the irrepressible spirit of resilience. On this day, and every day, we honor the memories of those lost, mourn with their families and loved ones and at the same time celebrate the voice of unity and courage. We combine two 8 acre adjacent areas to make one 16 acre campus, a place of remembrance, purpose and permanence.

About the Author
Rachel Kraus is a corporate marketing and business development executive, who spends her spare hours teaching and sharing her passion for Jewish learning. Rachel earned her MBA from NYU and has spent over a decade in informal Jewish Education, teaching across the globe. Rachel, together with her husband Daniel Kraus, live in New York, where they work together as the Directors of Community Education at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side. Balancing the corporate world, Jewish communal responsibilities and teaching, Rachel's greatest joy are her four amazing children.
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