Spire at 1 World Trade Center resonates with 9/11 families, survivors

Associated Press

Sean Schielke, of Southbury, was a 27-year-old international bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, working at the North Tower of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001. He was one of more 150 Connecticut residents who died in the terrorist attacks that day, and one of more than 600 Cantor Fitzgerald employees to lose their lives.

More than a decade after the attacks, a spire was fully installed atop the new 1 World Trade Center, bringing the New York City skyscraper to its symbolic height of 1,776 feet. The addition of the spire makes it the tallest structure in the U.S. and third-tallest in the world,

In Fairfield County, those affected by 9/11 had mixed feelings about the new tower’s progress. Some saw it as a step forward from that terrible day, including Schielke’s mother, Patricia.

The height of the building doesn’t matter to her, she said. But simply having one more piece of the reconstructed area around the Trade Center is a good thing.

“It’s a sign of completion,” she said.

The last step, she said, will be the opening of the 9/11 museum under the memorial plaza that opened in 2011. “I think it will be open to the families first,” she said of the museum. “We hope to go with the Cantor Fitzgerald families.”

Others shared her feelings of closure about the new structure. Bill Schuchat, of New Fairfield, was a deputy U.S. marshal working eight blocks away from the World Trade Center on 9/11.

When a plane, hijacked by terrorists, hit the center’s South Tower, Schuchat and his fellow marshals rushed to the scene and helped people escape the building. The South Tower collapsed when Schuchat was still inside. Remarkably, he escaped.

However, Schuchat’s uncle, firefighter Raymond Murphy, was killed at the World Trade Center.

Schuchat said the completion of the new building means a lot to him.

“I’m glad we can tell those dirtbags they couldn’t keep us down,” he said of the men who attacked the towers.

Others, however, had more complicated reactions.

Greenwich resident Susan Wohlforth, who lost her husband Martin, a managing director with the investment firm Sandler O’Neill, in the attack, said she had conflicting feelings about the tower being completed, as it brought back reminders of that day.

“I think for the country it is something that is a long time coming and something to be proud of,” she said. “But personally, I have very mixed emotions.”

Stamford resident Dan McMorrow said he doesn’t feel a connection to the new building at ground zero.

McMorrow was at his desk at the brokerage firm ICAP on the 25th floor of the north tower when American Airlines Flight 11 hit. He got out of the building before it collapsed by taking the stairs, passing firefighters running up as he was going down.

Nearly 12 years later, McMorrow said he never stays above the sixth floor when he checks into a hotel.

“They say, ‘Would you like a low floor or a high floor?'” McMorrow said Friday. “I’m like, ‘I’ll take a low floor. That will work for me.'”

McMorrow, who recently retired from ICAP, said he watched One World Trade Center’s construction from the company’s new office in Jersey City, N.J. He can’t understand why anyone would want to work there.

“I would constantly shake my head and say, ‘Why would you build something that big?'” McMorrow said. “I know you want to be able to say you’re American, that in spite of (the terrorists) we’re going to build something even bigger and taller. But at some point you have to say, why continue to make yourself a target?”

C. Lee Hanson, of Easton, whose son, Peter, daughter-in-law and 2-year-old granddaughter were on one of the planes that flew into the Trade Center, said he wished One World Trade Center had retained its original name — the Freedom Tower.

“Building the building that high and calling it the Freedom Tower would have really meant something,” said Hanson, now 80.

The installation of the 408-foot, 758-ton spire was completed after pieces of it were transported to the roof of the building last week. It will serve as a broadcast antenna and a beacon to ward off aircraft.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site, said the LED-powered light would be activated in the next few months. The building is at the northwest corner of the site where the twin towers were destroyed. The 72-story 4 World Trade Center is under construction at the southeast corner of the site.

There has been some controversy over whether the new building is actually the tallest in the country. Building experts dispute whether the spire is actually an antenna — a key distinction in measuring height.

If it didn’t have the spire, One World Trade Center would be shorter than the Willis Tower in Chicago, which stands at 1,451 feet and currently has the title of tallest building in the U.S., not including its own antennas.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, a Chicago-based organization considered an authority on such records, says an antenna is something simply added to the top of a tower that can be removed.

By contrast, a spire is something that is part of the building’s architectural design.

The tower is slated to open for business in 2014.

Tenants include the magazine publisher Conde Nast, the federal government’s General Services Administration and Vantone Holdings China Center, which will provide business space for international companies.

The Associated Press and staff writers Amanda Cuda, Kate King, Robert Miller, Dirk Perrefort, and Frank MacEachern contributed to this report.

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