Thursday, September 09, 2021

Rise and Fall: The World Trade Center, on History Channel

It took New Yorkers several years to warm up to the Twin Towers, but when they were gone, we really missed them. The World Trade Center was an engineering feat and a symbol of Western commerce and industry that made them abhorred by the fanatics of social backwardness. The construction and horrifying destruction of the Twin Towers are chronicled in History Channel’s Rise and Fall: The World Trade Center, which premieres tomorrow.

Before he was selected to design the World Trade Center, Minoru Yamasaki’s tallest constructed building was a 20-some-story office complex. The Detroit-based architect never really knew why the Port Authority invited him to bid on the project, but when he submitted his plans, he wowed everyone. Subsequently, his designs changed a great deal, especially to meet the practical demands of building over the conventional 80-story limit.

In fact, some of the most revealing segments explain aspects of the innovative construction process. The truth is there was much to admire about the building’s engineering, which arguably saved a great many lives. Frankly, nobody bothers to address the skepticism of 9/11 conspiracy mongers, like Spike Lee, who fancy themselves armchair structural engineers, after majoring in post-structural literary theory. The idea that fire can twist and deform steel is painfully obvious to them, because they are trained in the science.

Rise and Fall raises one construction issue that should have been more widely aired. It turns out the substandard fire-proofing was subcontracted to a reputed John Gotti associate, who was wacked in the underground parking lot during construction.

Rise and Fall
subsequently covers Philippe Petit’s high-wire walk between the Towers (memorably documented in Man on Wire), the first terrorist bombing in 1993, and of course the 9/11 attacks. Although these events are more familiar to viewers, the producers still incorporate some riveting eye-witness accounts from survivors.

Obviously, the World Trade Center holds an enormously significant place in New York history, but
Rise and Fall does a nice job providing fuller context before and beyond September 11. It is informative and sometimes quite poignant. Highly recommended (especially for those who want to forget, like those in the current administration who are ready to erase Afghanistan from our tactical maps), Rise and Fall: The World Trade Center premieres Friday (9/10) on History Channel.