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9/11: A Year After / WHO WE ARE NOW

Gopal Mitra

September 11, 2002

Gopal Mitra, 66, a Calcutta architect inspired by his devout Hindu faith, joined the team designing the World Trade Center in 1963 after a chance meeting with the project's mastermind, Minoru Yamasaki. In beautifully rendered pencil drawings, Mitra conceived the towers' stainless steel skin, a self-supporting latticework engineered to withstand 200-mile-per-hour winds, earthquakes--and an aircraft strike.

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"I used to work every day from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. I would come home, get a couple of hours' sleep and go back to the office. One day after 4 o'clock, when I came home and was preparing my coffee, I heard the voice of the lord, my master, my spiritual guru Thakur Sitaram Das Omkernath: 'My child, you seem to be so worried about the foundations of a little building. Have you ever thought that that upon which you are placing your foundations, Mother Earth, has no foundations, floating in space?'

We were building the tallest structure on Earth and imagine, our work was insignificant: 110 stories. Dust compared to the Earth floating in space! And we were racking our brains.

I was working in my office in the evening of Sept. 11. G.S. Sanyal, a senior barrister at the Calcutta high court and a good friend of mine, telephoned me and said, 'The World Trade Center is under attack.' I told him point blank: 'Nothing can happen to it.' Then again he telephoned me and said, 'Please come and see,' because he knows I don't watch TV.

So I went around 9 at night and saw two scenes: One was the first plane hitting, and I was confident nothing would happen to the building. With about a 250-ton load, and that enormous velocity, a several-thousand-ton impact-moment was generated, and the building did not shudder. In a normal case, the building would have been blown over.

In the second scene, I saw the enormous eruption of that volcano of exploding fuel. In the face of that volcano, no fire system could work because everything was turned to ashes. It was an inferno inside. It created a blast furnace and melted the steel. That is why it collapsed. The impact was nothing.

Lord Krishna says, 'I am the Creator. Everything flows from me.' To give us some pleasure, he, through us, created that simplicity of the World Trade Center. It is his creation. None of us should take any credit for it. None of us should take any credit for these sheer towers of beauty. It is the work of the master himself. He created it, he destroyed it. I give no importance to that. In his words, this is nothing. There is nothing called death, only the change of bodies. The soul is indestructible.

Those gleaming two towers of the World Trade Center will remain in everyone's memory. So pure. So simple."

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As told to Paul Watson

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