Photos show how dramatically the World Trade Center site and Manhattan’s skyline have transformed since the 9/11 attacks

  • The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, changed America forever. They also permanently altered New York City landscape.
  • Over the past 18 years, the site of the World Trade Center has become a memorial to the 2,977 lives lost on 9/11, and new buildings like One World Trade Center have been constructed.
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The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, took the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans and transformed the US in countless ways.

It sparked the global war on terror (which the US is now fighting in 76 countries) and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest war in US history and one that the Trump administration is struggling to withdraw from.

It led to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Patriot Act.

And it also fundamentally changed New York City.

In honor of the 18th anniversary of the horrific attacks, we compiled 18 photos showing how Manhattan’s Financial District and skyline have changed since 9/11 as the city rebuilt ground zero.

Here’s an aerial view of the Twin Towers on a peaceful June day in 1999.

But that skyline was horrifically altered a little more than two years later.

You can see the stark difference between the top photo, taken on August 30, 2001, and the bottom photo, taken from the spot 16 days after the attacks. It would take several months for rescuers to go through the rubble.


In December 2003, a design for the new One World Trade Center was finally unveiled.

In addition to the 1,776-foot-tall One World Trade Center building, the site would come to include four other World Trade Center buildings, a 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center, a WTC Transportation Hub, and Liberty Park.

Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Curbed

A “Tribute in Lights” shone on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in 2006, where the World Trade Center once stood. The lights still shine in tribute each year on the anniversary.

The ‘Tribute in Lights’ shines on the skyline of lower Manhattan in New York, September 11, 2006, as the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center is observed.

As late as 2007, the site still looked about the same, as construction was hamstrung by lawsuits, budget overruns, design changes, and a recession.

Source: Time

In 2009, the 9/11 memorial waterfalls were starting to take shape.

One World Trade Center, also known as the “Freedom Tower,” was just starting to rise from the rubble.

In June 2010, the skyscraper was slowly rising.

By July 2011, the memorial waterfalls were being tested, and One World Trade Center’s facade was beginning to reflect the sky.

Here’s the Manhattan skyline in August 2011. You can see the unfinished tower beginning to peek over the other skyscrapers.

The memorial waterfalls officially opened in September 2011, and the museum, seen on the right, opened in May 2014.

By November 2014, One World Trade Center was complete, as was 4 World Trade Center (left) and 7 World Trade Center (far right). But 3 World Trade Center, seen here with a crane above it, still wasn’t finished.

The WTC Transportation Hub, on which the soaring white Oculus was built, was also under construction in late 2014.

The hub officially opened in June 2016, while 3 World Trade Center was still under construction.

The $50 million Liberty Park also opened in June 2016. From there, visitors can get an overhead view of the ground zero memorial.

Source: Gothamist

It took 3 World Trade Center another two years to be completed. This photo, taken on June 8, 2018, shows 3 World Trade Center, One World Trade Center, 4 World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and Liberty Park, all finally complete.

And the Manhattan skyline was forever changed.

Editor’s note: Daniel Brown contributed to an earlier version of this article.