From atop the Empire State Building on 9/11, pride in our work rebuilding the World Trade Center

We all have heard the term circle of life. Most say it refers to the symbolic representation of birth, survival and death. In school, we were taught that a circle has no beginning or end. In other words, we can say a circle ends at the start point; life ends at the beginning point, and starts over again. At some point in your life, you will experience some form of this. For me, it seems that 9/11 has opened my eyes to this circle.

Forty years and four months ago, I was a young tourist from Holland, Pa., on a Catholic grade school class trip to New York City, a place of mind-blowing vastness. While visiting, back in 1975, the place everyone had to go was the Empire State Building. It opened a new world for us, as until then the trees we climbed as kids were the highest places we had even been. It was everything the chaperones could do to keep the bunch of us rowdy kids from climbing up on the metal bars high atop on the observation deck. We had no fear – truly, we were at the top of the world! Like every other person who has visited, we took countless pictures: of course, one shot was a picture of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, new to the skyline by only a few years and boasting of kingship in the city’s silhouette. Truly, it was a childhood experience that no one ever forgets.

The original World Trade Center stands proudly in this photo taken by Irvin on his 1975 grade school class trip to New York City. It hangs in his office today.

The original World Trade Center stands proudly in this photo taken by General Superintendent Mark Irvin on his 1975 grade school class trip to New York City. It hangs in his office today.

I never came back to the city, not until September 2001. Four days after 9/11, I found myself at the World Trade Center site along with other construction workers, drawn to the city to help in any way possible. We spent the day – 16 hours – simply carrying water to the rescue teams. Then we went home to our families, to sob, like most of the world. Again, I thought I would never go back, believing that the circle was complete. Then, a few years later I was asked to join the Skanska joint venture that was helping reconstruct the World Trade Center: I committed without hesitation, obligated by my honor, pride and emotion. Those that know me, those that have read my novelettes about the years I spent working to rebuild the World Trade Center, know the passion, pride and commitment I and my teammates have to be part of such a construction project, one that is a testament to the strength of the American people. It’s ironic that I came back to New York City for a purpose of which one would never think.

And yet, the circle of life – having no ending – continues. I finished my tour of duty at the World Trade Center, near six years of memories, tears and smiles. And as life continues, so do new opportunities, new construction projects. As I write this on September 11, I am high atop the Empire State Building once again, almost in the exact same spot that I visited as a kid. Now, I am rejuvenating the 84-year-old building’s mooring mast, which runs between the 90th and 101st floors, some quarter mile in the air. Call it fate or destiny, but I see the new World Trade Center every night my team and I are up here: it’s back in our hearts, and back to having a commanding position in the city’s skyline.

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One World Trade Center, as seen in the distance from Irvin’s current project atop the Empire State Building.

On September 11, we remember, honor and respect those who have lost, and those who have fought for us and continue to do so. On this night, my team – a small part of the many millions who bow their heads today – are especially proud to be Americans. We are even prouder when we look south and see resiliency at its finest.

The circle of life is not a myth, for I have witnessed birth, survival, death and full-circle re-birth. I truly am proud to have been part of bringing the World Trade Center back to life, proud of my teammates who continue to strive to reach its completion and proud to be part of this nation. Please don’t judge any step of life’s path as more important or advanced than the others. Wherever we are, it’s perfect!

For just a moment, take a break and bask in the greatness that’s all around you. See your family, your friends and all of your life. Never forget that day, I ask. The circle is never complete.

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Skanska cranes last year working to build the Oculus entrance portal to the World Trade Center Transportation Hub. Our teams bring much passion, pride and commitment to the World Trade Center rebuilding effort. 

Mark Irvin

General superintendent, Skanska USA

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