At the beginning of September 2001, the World Trade Center had two of the world’s tallest buildings. The North Tower was #5, at 1368 ft, and the South Tower was #6, at 1362 ft.
At the end of September, they were gone, destroyed by an organized, coordinated attack by nineteen al-Qaeda-connected Muslims.
Two planes – American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 – both Boeing 767s – were flown into the Towers. A third plane – American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 – was flown into the Pentagon.
A fourth plane – United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 – left Newark, New Jersey, and may have been headed for Washington, D.C. Passengers tried to retake the plane, and were probably on the verge of succeeding, when the terrorists crashed it, in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The toll that day was about 2,996 people, all but 19 of whom had simply started out for another routine Tuesday in September.
The toll was remarkably light, considering that at full occupancy, the Towers could have held 50,000 people.
It took about 4 years for the North Tower to open (in December 1970), and six for the South Tower (January 1972).
So far, it’s been 10 years since their destruction. A new building, first called “Freedom Tower”, but officially to be called “One World Trade Center”, is scheduled to open early in 2014. That’ll be eight years after the start of construction.
It will be 1776 feet high, making it the tallest building in the country, and the second tallest on Earth.
America had one of the first tall buildings: The Empire State Building, completed in 1931, at 1250 feet. It took only 13 months to complete. Coincidentally, in 1945, on July 28 (a Saturday), a B-25 Mitchell bomber crashed into the building. There was a pea-soup fog at the time, and the pilot was trying to make an emergency landing at La Guardia Field. Including the pilot, 18 people were killed, and the building re-opened on Monday.
The B-25 Mitchell was the type of plane used in Jimmy Doolittle’s famous 1942 raid on Japan.
They are still flying.
The Empire State Building stood as the tallest building until 1974, when the Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower) was opened in 1974, three years after start of construction. With 110 stories, it stands 1450 feet tall.
That record stood until 1998, when the Petronas Towers, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at 1483 feet, opened.
The next record was set in 2003, with the Taipei 101 (so called because of its 101 stories), at 1667 feet. That one took 6 years to build.
The next record-breaker is likely to hold the title for decades. It’s the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, U.A.E. 160 stories, 2716 feet to the top.
It was designed by Adrian Smith of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. That firm also designed the Sears Tower, the Air Force Academy Chapel, the new One World Trade Center, and the Islamic Cultural Center of New York.
In 1956, Frank Lloyd Wright envisioned a mile-high skyscraper. It would have risen 528 stories above Chicago’s streets. Its top would have been on a level with Denver.
There were certain technical difficulties to overcome, and it was never built.
The material used for towers at the time, steel, is quite flexible. This causes the tower to sway substantially in the wind, causing discomfort for occupants of the higher floors.
Still, Wright did get a skyscraper built: the Price Tower, in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, finished in 1956. It rises 221 feet above the Oklahoma prairie, with 19 stories.
Earlier Tall Buildings
The first tall building was the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops). It was built some 4500 years ago, and stood 481 feet tall. They were originally intended as a resting place for the Pharaoh after he died, but in fact became great monuments, visible for miles around, sending a message far and wide: “There’s treasure here. Rob me”.
Skipping ahead a few millennia, we come to the Eiffel Tower, built in 1889. It is a staggering 984 feet tall.
Neither of those count in the roster of “Tall Buildings”, because that category only includes office and “multi-purpose” buildings.