You might have seen this two-minute time-lapse video of the eleven-year construction of One World Trade Center that’s been making the rounds: It’s been viewed more than 500,000 times since May 28, to celebrate the May 29 public opening of One World Trade. Today, the inevitable GIF version — which lets you watch the skyscraper rise from the ground to the sky in seconds — appeared on Reddit’s NYC Subreddit and has been spreading around the Web.
We have the Hackensack, New Jersey–based company EarthCam to thank for providing us with the images of the new World Trade Center building rising faster than a schoolboy’s — you know where I’m going here.
EarthCam’s founder and CEO, Brian Cury, rushed to get a camera up on the roof of what was then a Houlihan’s restaurant in the financial district days after the 9-11 attacks, to document the recovery efforts. In 2003, EarthCam partnered with the Millennium Hilton on Church Street, a stone’s throw from the recovery site, and put two cameras up on the hotel’s roof — one on the northwest corner and one on the southwest. The company also installed cameras in Jersey City, to capture the view from across the river.
“Being a New York/New Jersey company, we felt that it was kind of our obligation to provide this documentation,” Cury says. “Early on, we got lots of emails from victims’ families thanking us for providing this view so people could see there was recovery going on. So it really drove us to do this.”
As the years passed, EarthCam’s technology advanced, and over the years the cameras on the roof of the Hilton were replaced with updated models. Cury estimates they’ve gone through “well over a dozen” cameras over the past eleven years. He donated the first camera he installed on top of Houlihan’s, along with the footage, to the 9-11 Memorial Museum.
EarthCam documents construction projects around the world and has cameras recording the building of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, for example, offering its services — be they promotional or for planning purposes — to clients for a fee. But EarthCam documented the 9-11 recovery process and the building of One World Trade Center with its own funding. And the company hasn’t stopped yet. “The cameras are still there,” Cury says. “We’re now documenting the Trade Center Three building going up, and the Oculus [the World Trade Center Transportation Hub]. It’s our mission to continue to document this for future generations, so people can see what it took to rebuild those sixteen acres.”