One year later, it still seems strange talking about the World Trade Center towers in the past tense. It's still hard to comprehend the surreal terrorist violence that killed so many — more than 2,800 people died in the four plane crashes of 9-11 — and destroyed so much so fast. It's hard for people who never saw the World Trade Center towers up close to imagine how enormous they were. Their destruction left a gaping hole in New York that will forever change the city — and the country.

Now, a year after the World Trade Center towers fell, lower Manhattan's future is still difficult to forecast. Thanks to the heroic around-the-clock efforts of the NYC fire department and various contractors, Ground Zero now looks more like a construction site than a disaster area. Gone are the mountains of steel, concrete rubble and melted plastic toxins. The fenced-off scene seems set for construction of enormous proportions. The question is…what?

Last September, two electrical professionals talked to CEE News about the future. “Everybody's estimate right now is that it might be a year before that site is cleared,” said Joseph D'Angelo, chapter manager for the New York City chapter of NECA.

Robert McInerney, president of Kleinknecht Electric Co., New York, N.Y., said that despite the horrific tragedy, New York will come back stronger than ever. “I feel very confident in New York,” he said. “I think we'll rebuild and get through this tragedy. New York still is and will be the greatest city in the world.” Kleinknecht lost an employee at the trade center, one of 16 electricians who died Sept. 11 in the towers.

New York City is now looking ahead to the future of the World Trade Center. Several rebuilding concepts, proposed shortly after 9-11, probably will never get off the ground. These include a plan, backed by New York's heroic former mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, to build a 16-acre memorial.

Few seem excited about Larry Silverstein's vow to erect a forest of 50-story office towers on the site. Silverstein, who holds the lease on the World Trade Center site, does plan to rebuild No. 7 World Trade, a 47-floor building consumed by fire after the two towers fell.

Below the Twin Towers, subway trains ran through stations of the three major New York City subway systems — IRT, BMT and IND. The largest reconstruction effort now underway is the Port Authority's work to build a temporary PATH station for the 65,000 riders who depended on the World Trade Center line from Hoboken, N.J., and Jersey City, N.J. In late January 2002, the Port Authority hired contractors to begin a $300 million job to carve out a temporary station at the World Trade Center site, improve Jersey City's Exchange Place stop and upgrade the tunnels — built in 1908 — in between. The Manhattan station, due to open in December 2003, will have the same layout as the original, but with a longer platform to accommodate longer, 10-car trains.

Electrical restorations

New York City's electrical network was able to operate in an “extraordinarily resilient” way after the disaster, despite the loss of two electrical substations near the World Trade Center, said Thomas O'Rourke, the Thomas R. Briggs Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University.

“In many other cities, the way the electrical systems are configured would have resulted in a cascade effect, as one substation shut down the next. But in New York City there is a system of local networks allowing one network to operate independently of another,” O'Rourke said. “The rapid restoration of electric power after the event owes much to the commitment and skill of utility crews.”

In April 2002, Consolidated Edison Co. (ConEd) announced that it had met the challenge to complete permanent underground restoration work in lower Manhattan in time for summer 2002. The company also said it would invest $533 million in enhancements to its electrical distribution system throughout New York City and Westchester County, N.Y.

Company officials also announced the ongoing infrastructure improvements as ConEd crews removed the last of the 36 miles of emergency street-level electric cables that were installed to restore service quickly to businesses and residents following 9-11. In addition, the company said it would spend an additional $116 million this year for repairs and enhancements to the electrical systems that were damaged or destroyed in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11.

Associations step up

Every electrical association and agency has kept busy coming to terms with the full impact of 9-11 and taking measures against potential future terrorist acts. Shortly after 9-11, NFPA began offering free online high-rise information at www.nfpa.org to building owners/managers interested in conducting evacuation drills at work.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) also posted five key model consensus documents targeted to first responders who are called to bio-hazardous events, and is offering evacuation workshops, in conjunction with BOMA and FEMA, throughout the United States. The NFPA believes the crumbled remains of the World Trade Center hold clues about how to enhance fire safety, structural engineering and security for present and future high-rises.

Meanwhile, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) examined the charred World Trade Center rubble, hoping to unearth a world of knowledge. The NIST, a government agency, provides measurements, standards and technical advice to federal, state and local agencies and the private sector to protect U.S. citizens from terrorist, military, natural disaster and other types of threats. In its preliminary stages, NIST scientists and researchers constructed a computer model of the likely conditions inside the buildings following the collisions using a program called a Fire Dynamic Simulator or SnakeView.

Pentagon Update

The Sept. 11 crash of the terrorist-piloted, fuel-laden jet caused nearly 2 million square feet of damage to portions of Wedge 1 and Wedge 2 at the Pentagon. Despite the devastation, rebuilding efforts began immediately.

Walker Lee Evey, program manager of the Pentagon renovation, expects the E-Wedge portion of the Pentagon renovation to be ready for occupancy by the Sept. 11 anniversary of the attack. Due to the 24/7 efforts of construction teams, Evey said that a renovation normally taking three years would be completed in one year. According to the Pentagram, a government newsletter, the construction of the core and shell of a building usually takes one-and-a-half years, but was completed in five months.

Called the Phoenix Project, the fast-track restoration of 9-11 damage has cost $400 million so far and is expected to rise to $501 million, much less than the estimate of $740 million. After contractors complete the Phoenix Project in September, a design/build contracting team is expected to begin work on a larger Pentagon renovation at the end of September 2002. Overall completion of that renovation project is expected in December 2012.

Back on Sept. 15, 2001, the Department of Defense awarded a contract to Hensel Phelps Construction Co., Chantilly, Va., to initiate immediate action to rebuild portions of the Pentagon damaged in the terrorist attack and to continue other renovation activities in the Pentagon.

Chantilly, Va.-based electrical contractor M.C. Dean is installing datacom, security and life-safety wiring in the Pentagon, and Syska Hennessy Group performed engineering design services, preparation of contract documentation and construction administration services for HVAC, electrical, security and telecommunications infrastructure for the Wedge 1 portion of the damaged area. This work included an upgrade to the pre-Sept. 11 design to allow for improved flexibility, redundancy and defensibility.