History of the World Trade Center | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 31.12.2001
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History of the World Trade Center

Before September 11, 2001, New York's World Trade Center was a business hub like no other.


The Manhattan skyline once dominated by the twin towers of the World Trade Center in the background.

The World Trade Center was a complex comprising seven buildings which was opened in 1970. Situated in the south-end of Manhattan, New York, it was borne out of the desire by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to promote international commerce while creating an aesthetically impressive structure. Construction on the famous landmark, the Twin Towers, began in 1966 and was completed in 1972. For two years, they proudly held the title of the world's tallest building but were then succeeded by Chicago's Sears Tower.

Nonetheless, the milestone in modern 20th century architecture was approximately 412 meters tall at its highest point and boasted four million square feet of office space specifically designed for private international trade firms.

With 110 floors the World Trade Center had 239 elevators and 71 escalators in total. The building housed approximately 50.000 regular employees from in excess of 400 companies although is was estimated that there were circa 80.000 visitors during business hours.

The World Trade Center cost $ 750 million to build. It had 43.600 windows in the Twin Towers alone and was situated on a 16 acre site. It was home to New York's emergency command center and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, controlling bridges and tunnels for the island of Manhattan and the area's airports.

The complex included hotels, in the region of 70 shops and restaurants, a subway and railroad station as well as another underground shopping center.

The World Trade Center was built to endure a veritable wealth of stresses and strains, least of all those caused by its surrounding environs. Punters even claimed that it would remain standing should a Boeing 707 ever crash into it. However, that plane weighs 152.400 kg at take-off whereas the one that lead to its demise on Tuesday was a Boeing 767 which weighs approximately 186,880 kg.

In July 2001 the World Trade Center made the headlines and broke another record; this time for the largest privatization initiatives in history by fetching the biggest rental agreement ever recorded.

The Port Authority leased it for 99 years to Silverstein Properties Inc. and Westfield America Inc. for $ 3.2 billion. A track record this impressive did however, make it a desired target for terrorist organizations as its destruction would be unworldly and would bring one of the world's most powerful cities to a grinding halt.

1993 Bombing

On 26 February 1993 an inconspicuous van, loaded with approximately 500 kilograms of explosive material, made its way into the underground parking lot of the building, before being detonated. The attack resulted in six deaths and a further 1000 injuries as well as a crater 30 meter in diameter and extensive damage to three floors.

It took hours to evacuate the building since all powerlines serving the building were switched off, leaving people to use dark emergency stairways to escape.

Twelve people were tried for conspiracy that also involved a plot to bomb the United Nations, the FBI Building in New York and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels leading into Manhattan from New Jersey under the Hudson River.

Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and nine other militant Muslims belonging to Afghanistan's Taliban movement were convicted on charges related to the bombing. On January, 8th, 1998 Ramzi Yousef was convicted of the bombing and sentenced to life imprisonment

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