NEW YORK (AP) — The view from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's new offices at 4 World Trade Center encompasses the new and the old, the real and the imagined.
To the northwest stands the gleaming 1 World Trade Center tower, a symbol of the area's renaissance. On the 9/11 memorial pavilion below lie two reflecting pools, built in the footprint of the towers that fell in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed 84 Port Authority employees among nearly 3,000 victims.
On Thursday, the Port Authority will hold its first board meeting at its new headquarters, a milestone that has been aided by a concentrated effort by the agency, through a program developed by its human resources department, to address the concerns of employees who experienced the attacks.
"For people who lived through it, moving back was going to present challenges," executive director Patrick Foye said this week. "And I think for a very small percentage, understandably, some people are still grappling with it. But I think the reaction to the building is, it's beautiful, it's well designed and it's in an incredibly exciting part of town."
The last board meeting at the Port Authority's offices in the North Tower on July 26, 2001 — meetings generally aren't held in August due to vacations — took up matters including an agreement between the agency, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak on a new rail station connecting those two lines with Newark Liberty International Airport.
Amazingly, the next board meeting was held as scheduled, nine days after the attacks, at the building of utility company Consolidated Edison on Third Avenue.
"We left the World Trade Center very abruptly that day, but everybody was back to work in three days" in various locations, according to Richard Larrabee, then and now the Port Authority's director of port commerce.
Headquarters eventually shifted to a building on Park Avenue near Union Square that was functional, if drab. The move to 4 World Trade Center began last fall and is complete except for a medical services unit, Foye said.
With the new location come constant reminders, if not from the landmarks than from the thousands of tourists who descend on the site daily.
"I'll admit, in candor, I don't walk into that building any day without thinking about where it is and the history of the Port Authority people who worked at 1 World Trade Center," said Port Authority chairman John Degnan, who was appointed to the position last year. "Not that it scares me, but it reminds me of sacrifices, and the standard risk you take when you put yourself in an iconic building."
Larrabee, whose office was on the 62nd floor of the North Tower, said he hadn't visited the World Trade Center site over the years as he kept his focus on the future.
"I don't think about what happened to me when I look at the memorial," he said. "We had a saying in those days: 'We will never forget.' It will never go out of our memories. I'm still dealing with it a little bit, but my strategy was to not look over my shoulder. That can be hard, but I'm coming to grips with it."