Real estate developer Larry Silverstein could not be present at his get-together at 3 World Trade Center Thursday evening because the 90-year-old was not feeling well.
But his towering achievement of rebuilding the World Trade Center complex was on view from the 80th floor of the 1,079-foot building for his guests, building executives and city leaders two days before the anniversary of the devastating attack that killed 2,977 people, 19 hijackers committed murder-suicide, and injured 6,000 others. Many more, mostly first responders, have subsequently died of 9/11 illnesses.
The event was also a showcase for Silverstein Properties photographer Joe Woolhead who spent years documenting in photos the rebuilding of the main tower, 1 World Trade Center, and subsequent construction of accompanying structures. Woolhead, along with co-author Scott Raab, unveiled their new book, “Once More to the Sky: The Rebuilding of the World Trade Center,” published by Simon and Schuster.
Woolhead, an immigrant of Ireland in the early ’90s, had been a construction worker when he was seriously injured in a construction accident at the nearby Chase Manhattan Bank by a granite slab in 1996. It was then that he began to develop his photography skills and having worked in construction, it was natural for him to photograph construction sites.
He was present when the second tower collapsed, having traveled by train to the World Trade Center on 9/11. It was then that he began his photography odyssey of the site from destruction to reconstruction. At first, he worked for Esquire Magazine, but then, an old roommate hooked him up with Silverstein Properties who needed photos of the groundbreaking ceremony of the Freedom Tower, now 1 World Trade Center. He was then asked to document the rebuilding – from nothing but a hole in the ground referred to as “the bathtub,” to the current towering structures.
“I became obsessed, driven by the idea that the prevailing narrative of the World Trade Center as a place of doom and gloom could be transformed, that people’s perceptions could be altered by the visuals of the progress of work at the site and that ultimately, seeing my pictures in the news, people would see progress and construction where he old towers used to be, and they would be made aware of the great changes happening on the ground and high up above the restless city streets as steel and concrete were riven together into spectacular form and new towers were seeded into New York bedrock,” Woolhead says in his book.
Woolhead photographed throughout the rebuilding process, sometimes butting heads with the Port Authority of New York-New Jersey who at one point, banned him from the site for six months after he photographed crane inspectors at the top of the tower – a picture that adorns the cover of his book. He never understood the reasoning for the ban.
Among those attending the get-together were Democratic Mayoral nominee Eric Adams, and Congressman Gerrald Nadler. Also in attendance was photographers Mark Lenihan of AP who photographed on 9/11 and Alan Tannenbaum, well-known for his celebrity photography including the late John Lennon, but was on the scene when the buildings fell.