CNN LARRY KING WEEKEND
America Remembers: The Significance of the World Trade Center
Aired October 27, 2001 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KING: Tonight: Fallen but never to be forgotten; New York's Twin Towers, landmarks that touched millions of lives.
Joining us to share personal memories and powerful images, journalist Harry Smith, host of an upcoming History Channel documentary on the World Trade Center.
Best-selling historian, Pulitzer Prize winner David Halberstam.
The publisher of "The World Trade Center Remembered," Robert Abrams.
The architecture critic for "The New Yorker" magazine, Paul Goldberger.
The author of the best-selling book, "Twin Towers," Angus Kress Gillespie.
The former Mayor of New York Ed Koch.
High-wire artist Phillipe Petit, who thrilled the world with a daring walk between the towers.
Plus the man who climbed a WTC tower in 1977, George Willig.
And the executive chef of Windows on the World, Michael Lomonaco. He lost his workplace, and a lot of colleagues.
They're all next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.
Good evening, welcome to a very special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND.
Let's start in New York with Harry Smith. You all see Harry on the History Channel. And he's going to host a History Channel documentary, "World Trade Center." It airs November 13; and throughout this program we'll be showing clips.
Is this just September 11 on, Harry, or a history of the center itself?
HARRY SMITH HOST, A7E'S "BIOGRAPHY": This is a show that we ordered last year, and was completed before September 11. And once September 11 happened we were really faced with a dilemma: Do we air this show as-is, or do we try to change it in some way to try to reflect what happened that day. And once we really took a look at it and let a couple of weeks pass, we said this show really is a tribute to what this place was, the kind of spirit that built it and the men and women who worked there every day. And so we decided to air it as- is.
KING: With a kind of an update at the beginning?
SMITH: Well clearly, you know, we have to be sensitive to the content of the show, because there are people that are seen in the broadcast that are among those who are listed in the missing. So we have decided to air this show without commercials in a way that we try to sensitize the audience to people that they'll see in the show who really are no longer with us.
KING: David Halberstam, of course, needs no introduction. He's the author of the bestseller "War in a Time of Peace." In fact, all his books pretty much have been major best-sellers. So is this one, climbing the list. He's also written the introduction to a new one, called "New York, September 11, 2001." It's a photography book which comes out November 1. Portions of the proceeds will go to the "New York Times" 9/11 Neediest Fund. The photography in the book is by Magnum.
How did you come to do -- you don't do openings for books do you, David?
DAVID HALBERSTAM, AUTHOR, "WAR IN A TIME OF PEACE": Well, they called me -- Burt Glinn, great, great photographer called and said, would I do this, and I said absolutely. The photographs are brilliant. They're really memorable. And I think, to be a part of it I feel honored to be asked to be a part of it to try and remember what the city was at that moment, why you love the city. And anything I can do to be included makes me, in fact, quite proud.
KING: Did you ever think in all your life, David, that in your lifetime the most cataclysmic event in the history of this country would happen and you would see it?
HALBERSTAM: I -- when I was a young man, 39 years ago, Larry, I went 12,000 miles away to Saigon as a volunteer journalist to sample the great confrontations of that time. And the idea that I would late in my life, much later, live five miles away from this horrendous moment is beyond me, particularly because the night before I had used the, as so many people did so often, used the Twin Towers as a guide coming back from Exerbin (ph), New Jersey. It was the first sign, as ever, that I was close to home.
KING: And Paul Goldberger -- he's in East Hampton, Long Island -- architectural critic for "The New Yorker" magazine. And he wrote a text for an upcoming book called "The World Trade Center Remembered."
Was it a great pair of buildings, Paul, architecturally?
PAUL GOLDBERGER, "THE NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE: It wasn't the greatest pair of buildings, but now that they're our first skyscraper martyrs -- the first architectural martyrs we've ever known, they have a whole different level of meaning. The pure aesthetics of the architecture hardly matter anymore. The fact that the Empire State Building, maybe, was a more beloved structure when it was alive doesn't matter.
Today we've got sidewalk vendors selling pictures of the World Trade Center towers the way they used to sell pictures of John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King. And that suggests that this building has become part of the fabric of our culture, emotionally, on a deeper level than any building ever has.
KING: It's symbol is larger than it?
GOLDBERGER: The symbol is larger than the buildings themselves were. And like all martyrs, it looms larger in death than it did in life.
It was a very good piece of engineering and a very exciting building in many ways. It wasn't the greatest skyscraper ever built, but that hardly matters in light of the extraordinary historical importance it now has.
KING: What, Paul -- and this -- everybody will get on -- and our panel's going to remain with us through the entire show as other guests appear -- what was the concept of -- why twin towers? Why not five towers, 50 floors each?
GOLDBERGER: Well, Minoru Yamasaki, the architect, played around with loads of different schemes. In fact, one report says he actually did 60 different versions. There were three towers, there were six towers, there were four, there were five, there was one mega-tower. Nothing quite seemed to work until he hit on the idea of two identical towers. And originally they were 80 stories each. And the Port Authority, which built it, came and saw it. And they said, well this looks great, we think we've got it aesthetically, but they're still too small. We can't get 10 million square feet office space into it, and that's what we want to build.
And Yamasaki said, but to do that they wouldn't be 80 stories, they'd be 110 stories; they'd be the tallest buildings in the world. And the Port Authority said, that sounds great to us.
KING: That's so New York.
GOLDBERGER: So New York. And then they went ahead and devised an extraordinary scheme that make that tall a building practical from the standpoint of elevators. One of the reasons that very, very tall buildings had not been built in great quantity is that it takes up too much space at the bottom of the building to run so many elevator shafts going to the top. The more floors you have going very high, the more people you've got to get up high and the more space you lose at the bottom until the lower floors are nothing but a donut going around a bunch of elevators.
Yamasaki devised a scheme with the engineers to stack sections of the building so that, in effect, it's like three buildings stacked on top of each other. You would you take an express elevator to a sky lobby and then switch to a local. And that made the buildings possible and practical.
KING: Harry, was the building fully rented?
SMITH: It was -- the occupancy was awfully darn close to full. And I think the thing that's interesting, because Paul was talking about how this thing was built -- it was originally built as a World Trade Center, which it never, ever was. It was supposed to be full of mom and pop sort of operations, steamboat brokers and people who would deal in goods and services that dealt, really, with the Port of Newark and Port of New York City. And as the buildings went up it became very clear very early on that the rents were going to be too high. And it never, ever really was a World Trade Center.
KING: We'll take a break and come back. Our panel will be joined by other guests. They'll be with us throughout. You're watching LARRY KING WEEKEND; don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: But remembering the World Trade Center only as the site of a disaster; seeing it in history only at that fatal moment in time, well, that would be doing it a disservice. For the World Trade Center had a life, too. It lived for 27 years as a landmark, a feat of engineering, a tourist attraction, a workplace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining our panel now in New York is Angus Kress Gillespie, author of "Twin Towers: The Life of New York City's World Trade Center," published by Rutgers University Press in 1999. "Twin Towers" was on the "New York Times" bestseller list. He's a professor at Rutgers.
What was the most unique think about these buildings to you?
ANGUS KRESS GILLESPIE, AUTHOR, "TWIN TOWERS": Well when they were built I think the unique thing was that they were the tallest building in the world, although some people have said they were the tallest building in the world for the world's shortest time, because they were shortly eclipsed by the Sears Tower in Chicago.
KING: And the most -- the concept of building it -- when I left New York in 1957 they weren't there. When I came back for visits they were there. How were they able to build it on an island?
GILLESPIE: That's a good question. Of course, if you dig a hole anywhere in lower Manhattan, that hole is going to up fill with water. And even if it's only three feet deep it'll fill up with water.
But they had to dig a hole that was 65 feet deep. So it was a real challenge. What they needed was an excavation that was 400 feet wide and 800 feet long. If they had just dug that, it would have filled up with water. To pump it out, even if that were possible -- which I doubt -- it would be like pumping out the entire Hudson River, so this was a real problem. And even if they had been able to do that, the surrounding buildings would have collapsed.
So what they had to do was to dig a three-foot trench entirely around the perimeter, fill it with concrete and create a kind of bath tub. But this was a reverse bathtub, the purpose of which was to keep the water out.
KING: David Halberstam, did you go to that building?
HALBERSTAM: I went often. In fact, I worked out in a gym there for quite a while.
I'm pathologically acrophobic, so it was always extremely difficult for me. I remember once having to lecture to a noon luncheon group at the Windows on the World up at the very top there, and just being terrified the entire time because my acrophobia went to red alert, so.
But it was -- you know, it was a marvel. I thought of it as a beacon of the city for all of us. I mean, you could sight in on it, Larry.
KING: Yes. Its elevator system, Angus, was modeled after the New York subway system?
GILLESPIE: Yes. I think Paul Goldberger elucidated that a moment ago. But the basic problem was, as he said, that you put in all these tenants and you put in so many elevators to serve them, in effect you chew up all your rentable floor space and the building is no longer economically feasible.
And the solution came from a young Port Authority engineer named Herb Tessler (ph), who went to Guy Tozzoli, who was the director of the World Trade Center and he said, I've got it. He said, we're going to pattern these elevators on the New York City subway. And Tozzoli says, well, what do you mean? And he says, well, you know, you take an express and then you change and you take a local. Even then it wasn't quite clear to him.
But gradually the concept emerged that you would have these two sky lobbies, one on the 44th floor, one on the 78th floor, where you could get out of the express elevator, change to a local and go to your ultimate destination.
It's curious, though, there was a blue ribbon panel of six experts who said, this will never work, the public will not accept it and you'll lose your shirt. But fortunately the public did accept it, and the scheme worked.
KING: And like David, is it true that Yamasaki, the architect, was an acrophobic?
GOLDBERGER: He was -- I know that he was very uncomfortable with great heights, and tended to design all of his buildings with very, very narrow windows so that -- generally he liked windows that were narrow enough so he could not imagine himself falling through them. He hated those great expanses of glass that make so many skyscrapers so exciting to look out from.
KING: Angus, where -- having written the book in '99, where were you that morning?
GILLESPIE: I was at home in New Brunswick, New Jersey sipping coffee and reading the newspaper, and my older son was in his car stuck in traffic. And he had his car radio on and he alerted me to turn on the television.
KING: What a personal, momentous thing that must have been to you, having done that book.
GILLESPIE: Well, it didn't hit me right away, because I turned on the TV, I saw the smoke coming out of Tower One, then I saw the airplane hit Tower Two. But even then I didn't fully realize the consequences. I assumed, mistakenly, it turns out, that the firemen would come, they'd put out the fire, the Port Authority would repair the damage in six months to a year, and life would go on as before.
SMITH: You know Larry, one of the things about the show we did, it -- looking at it as a piece of history and talking to all the people who were so involved with the building of the building and the maintenance of the building, the place seemed to be impenetrable. No one ever anticipated two jumbo jets loaded to the gills with fuel being thrust into these buildings at top velocity.
There was a time when they thought, well, what could this building withstand? Because clearly a B-29 had flown into the Empire State Building many, many years ago. That building did fine. The anticipation was this building was so strong that it could withstand the accidental crash of a Boeing 707. No one really anticipated the cataclysmic events of September 11.
KING: Angus, thanks for sharing some time with us. Brilliant book.
GILLESPIE: My pleasure.
KING: Angus Kress Gillespie leaves us, and he'll be replaced by Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York, with his thoughts. Our panel remains. You're watching LARRY KING WEEKEND. We'll be right back.
KING: Our panel remains on this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. We are joined by Ed Koch. He was mayor of New York from 1978 to 1989, 12 years. Maybe the mayor who best typified the exuberance of that city.
Ed, what, looking back, did those twin towers mean to the city when you were its mayor?
ED KOCH, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Well, they were the symbol of the city, as was mentioned earlier. They were not, initially, well- liked, and then they grew on you. And so the first thing that you saw when you were coming in by plane or coming in by boat were the two towers. And it just became part of New York City, more perhaps, even, than the Statue of Liberty.
KING: Did you go there often?
KOCH: Often is probably an overstatement. But I've been there many times, visiting the governors whether it was Kerry or Cuomo going to Windows on the World, or getting my eyeglasses. I actually got my eyeglasses in the basement.
KING: Where were you that morning?
KOCH: I was in my law office. And I remember it very, very well. I was sitting there, my secretary came running in. She said, a small plane has just hit one of the towers, I just heard it on the radio; let's turn on the TV. We turned on the TV and it didn't have a picture because the cables go through the towers. So we turned on the radio. They explained what had happened. And meanwhile my office is filling up with people, my law firm and everybody else came in. And then they reenacted the first plane going into the building, and then suddenly live, as we were watching it, we saw the second plane. And there were -- people were crying.
KING: Harry, where were you?
SMITH: I was in Denver, Colorado. I was supposed to be doing a speech. I was supposed to do a talk radio show. I had set the alarm for 6:30. The alarm had gone off and I heard -- I was in kind of an almost dream-like state, sort of waking up. And I hear people talking on the radio about the Twin Towers. And I'm thinking, whatever they're talking about is not funny, because I remember covering the story in 1993 when the terrorists had attacked the first time.
And as I really gained consciousness I immediately turned up the radio, I turned on the television and there it was. I was lucky enough to have a rent car, and I jumped in the rent car and I drove back to the city as soon as can I could.
KING: Before we ask David, Ed was it, in a sense, a city unto itself? You could have lived and died in that center. I mean, you could have been raised and had a life there.
KOCH: Yes you could, except it didn't have apartments. But the fact is that it had become the center of business activity in the Wall Street area.
Now, I want to tell you, when they first thought about building the towers, I was opposed to it because they were destroying an electronic area -- little shops and the Washington Meat Market, which everybody loved to go to. But then it grew on you. And I am one of those -- I don't think I'm in a majority, but I am one of those who believes they should be rebuilt from the original plans.
KING: David, where were you that morning? GOLDBERGER: I had come in the night before from suburban New Jersey, and I had just walked the dogs. And my friend, John Gregory Dunn (ph), the writer, called me and said turn on your television set. And I watched it; and I watched the second plane hit. And I had this sense, not just of the terror and the awful destructiveness, but an instinctive sense that our lives were changing, that this was terrorism coming home, that this was the deed that so many of us had long feared, and this was the -- I mean we weren't picking up yet, I don't think, the Pentagon part of the story. But one era in American life was over.
KING: Paul, where were you?
GOLDBERGER: I was in New York. And I had gone early in the morning to a meeting, actually, right in my apartment building of the co-op board. And we were sitting around a neighbor's dining room table having coffee, talking about what seemed like urgent matters at the time like, you know, whether -- how the superintendent was doing and that sort of stuff. And somebody got a call on a cell phone saying a plane had hit the World Trade Center, and we were all very startled. But we all first assumed, of course, that like that catastrophe at the Empire State building many years ago, it was a little plane, it was an accident.
And then I remember looking out the window and thinking, but this is the most beautiful day that has ever been. How could anybody have an accident with a plane in this kind of weather? That Empire State Building tragedy was in a terribly dense fog, and you could sort of imagine that happening. But this was the most beautiful, clear, perfect day that New York had ever seen.
And we talked about it for a minute, then we didn't have too much certainty about what to do so we tried to go back to our business for a few minutes. And then the phone rang again and it was my wife calling the apartment where we were in, and she -- I went to the phone and she said, you'd better get back to our apartment, right now. Do you have any idea what's going on?
And she had been alerted and turned on the TV and so forth. And I said, I think it's time to end the meeting. We all went back to our apartments. And by then, in fact, the second plane had hit and the Pentagon, I think, was imminent.
But I think David is right. We all had this sense that something is going to be different forever more. However much we can hold on to parts of the life we had, the context is going to be different. The meaning, even of similar events, will be different. And that greater era that New York has been through is now very different.
KING: Ed, one other thing: Do you logically think they'll ever be rebuilt?
KOCH: I believe that probably Silverstein's proposal -- and he has first dibs, as it were, because he leased the buildings -- of four buildings making up the same amount of space is probably what will happen. There are people who believe it just simply ought to be a monument. I don't agree with that. We certainly ought to have the most impressive, beautiful monument to mark the tragedy, but I think you have space for both, the buildings and the monument.
KING: Thank you Ed. Always good seeing you.
KOCH: Thank you.
KING: More guests will join our panel right after this. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The World Trade Towers were more than real-life landmarks; they stood tall in the landscape of popular culture. We still see the towers nearly every day in TV shows and movies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: We'll hear from people who knew its life intimately; who battled politics and nature to build the world's tallest twin skyscraper; who nurtured it and watched it change as it found its place in the skyline of New York, and of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back on LARRY KING WEEKEND. Let's reintroduce our panel. Harry Smith of the History Channel. He'll host the documentary "World Trade Center" airing November 13. You've been seeing clips.
David Halberstam, author of the runaway best-seller "War in a Time of Peace," who has written the introduction to "New York: September 11, 2201," a photography book due out November 1.
And Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for "The New Yorker" magazine. He wrote the text for the upcoming book "The World Trade Center Remembered."
Joining us now in New York is Phillipe Petit, the high-wire artist who walked the tightrope between the two towers. When did you do that, Phillipe?
PHILLIPE PETIT, HIGH-WIRE ARTIST: August 7, 1974.
KING: And the obvious question: Why?
PETIT: Well, you see the Twin Towers and I are twin. And the day they were born they were designed on the paper, so was my interest in them. And I watched them grow, and actually very closely I studied them like probably nobody did. And then I married them (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I married them with a smile, actually, when I put my wire there, a wire rope in thin air adopts a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) curve. It's not a straight line. Thus, the smile. Here we are.
KING: What happened to you after that?
PETIT: Oh, I didn't care what happened. Of course, America wanted to make somebody rich and famous out of me, but I am a poet who writes in the sky. And I can use money as a tool, but that was not the reason I spent seven years of my life studying the tower and putting a wire illegally between them.
KING: How long did it take to get across?
I was not interested to just walk across like a stunt man did. I was an actor on a very thin stage. And my friends -- I didn't calculate; my friends told me, Phillipe, you did eight crossings, you stayed 45 minutes on that wire. I was doing a performance. Of course, my audience was a quarter of a mile below, but still it was theater in the sky.
KING: Do you still to high-wire act?
PETIT: Oh, of course, of course; as long as I can walk on the ground, I will walk on the wire.
KING: Do you work in circuses?
PETIT: No, I am not a circus man. I was not born in the circus, I was born in the theater, in the opera. I am writing my eighth book right now. So I am a man of writing in the sky, again.
KING: Where were you on September 11?
PETIT: I was upstate New York, and I don't have a television set, so my friend Valerie (ph), a local artist, says: "Filipe, Filipe, run to a TV!" And another friend, a painter, Elaine, says: "Stay in front of the TV." And right there, like millions of people, I looked at my towers, as I liked to remember them -- now of course it's our towers, and I saw the disaster.
KING: Were you scared walking across?
PETIT: No, because I plan what I do very carefully. I want to live very old.
KING: You had to know winds, right?
PETIT: Well, it was turbulences worse than wind, but I planned it for seven years. And actually, not the irony -- there was no irony there -- but the beauty is, just before the disaster, I was working on sharing that vision through film and through a book, and then of course the disaster happened, and now as an artist my mission is to go back to creating, to go back to those projects. But nobody knows how I did it. Just people remember that I danced between them and I made them human.
KING: Harry, do you remember when Filipe did that? SMITH: I do remember that, and Larry, you should understand that Filipe is an artist in residence at the cathedral of St. John the Divine here in New York City, and he's done this kind of thing really all over the world. He's a remarkable person, he's more than just an aerialist. He's really -- he's really an artist, and what he did that day was -- he did, he put a smile between the two buildings.
KING: What floor did it go? What floor to what floor, Filipe?
PETIT: Oh, I only could think of the roof. A child would not put a rope between two windows of those two giant monoliths.
KING: So, how did the wire get across?
PETIT: Oh, with a bow and arrow and fishing line. You know, seven years of planning, the perfect bank robbery -- an artistic crime!
But actually, talking about the cathedral, I'm know we are here to give homage to the towers, but my life and theirs is mingled. So, for example, I see the towers as a cathedral, and one of my biggest project is put a wire at the Grand Canyon -- and to me, the Twin Towers were the marriage of a canyon and a cathedral.
KING: David, what did you think of Phillipe?
HALBERSTAM: Well, as I said, I'm agoraphobic, so I was extremely glad that it was...
HALBERSTAM: I was enormously admiring him, and I find him utterly charming here. And thinking of Phillipe makes me think of the people who actually built the building, of the courage of those extraordinary steel workers, I mean, who do that every day and go up on those precipices.
There was a wonderful column, you know, by Tom Friedman, my gifted colleague on the "New York Times" who talked about a couple of weeks ago the people who had the anger and the rage to destroy this but would never have had the talent, the imagination, the ingenuity to build this building or to build the jet planes that themselves crashed in -- I mean, that they could destroy but not build, and I think of those builders, what an astonishing achievement.
KING: Thanks very much, Phillipe. You are a great man. Great to see you. It's been a lot of fun.
Now joining us here in Los Angeles, another interesting figure associated with the World Trade Center, George Willig who climbed the World Trade Center. He went up Tower #2 in 1977. Why?
GEORGE WILLIG, CLIMBED THE WORLD TRADE CENTER TOWERS IN 1977: Well, I guess maybe in some ways similar to Phillipe Petit, I was inspired by the buildings. I was actually inspired by Phillipe. I remember his act when he climbed the buildings in 1974. After that, in 1975 another man parachuted from the top of one of the buildings, and I thought one of these days somebody's going to climb one of those buildings.
I actually told some climbing friends from out of town about that concept, and I think it was a couple weeks after that -- again, while I was looking at the World Trade Center at a distance, I thought of that idea, had this image of an inconsequential speck of a human being climbing one of those buildings, and I got this infusion of adrenaline. I got very excited and I felt like it must be my destiny.
KING: So at 6:30 in the morning on May 26 you just show up and climb. Now, what did you grab on to?
WILLIG: I designed special clamping devices that fit into a steel track that go up the building, and they were engineered to hold about 2,000 pounds so they could adequately hold my weight. I would just shift my weight from one piece of equipment to another, and I would just slide the one I wasn't standing on up the track and I'd transfer my weight to the next one, which was higher up, and I would just keep shuffling my way to the top of the building.
KING: You've got wind; each tower could sway approximately three feet from the true center in strong winds. Each tower is more than 21,000 windows. If glass used in the construction of the towers were melted into a ribbon of glass it would run 65 miles long. Did you ever at any point during your trip say, "I'm nuts?"
WILLIG: No. During the year that I was preparing for it, that's when I was thinking I was nuts. When I finally got to doing the climb itself in 1977, I had resolved to just do it. It was a fait accompli, more or less. I had to commit myself.
KING: How long did it take?
WILLIG: It took three and a half hours.
KING: When you got -- where did you go, what floor?
WILLIG: I went to the very top, and I was arrested there, after signing autographs and you know, shaking hands.
KING: Did you ever do jail time for that?
WILLIG: No jail time, no.
KING: What did they have you do?
WILLIG: I was sued by the city of New York for $250,000, I was served with four charges -- reckless endangerment, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and unauthorized climbing of a building. Those charges were all dropped a month later, and the lawsuit was actually lowered to a $1.10. The next day, it was announced at a press conference that I went to with Mayor Beame, who was the mayor at that time, they announced that they were lowering the lawsuit to $1.10, one penny for floor, and I paid it right there.
KING: What do you go for a living?
WILLIG: I'm a project manager in the telecommunications and cable TV industry.
KING: Paul, what did you make of it when George did that?
GOLDBERGER: I thought both George and Phillipe did something wonderful, which is they put some of the romance into the towers that the architects had left out. These were -- these were not always the most exhilarating buildings. We were proud of them. We believed in their height, we believed in the ambition that they represented, but there was a certain dullness to them, and it was only with Phillipe Petit and then later George Willig did their extraordinary things that these towers became actually objects of romance and excitement to so many people.
KING: Was there ever a moment on the way up you were in trouble, George?
WILLIG: There was no moment I was really in trouble. I was concerned at the 59th floor when the police were getting lowered down on a scaffolding adjacent to where I was climbing. I was climbing the very corner, and I thought they were going to try to grab me, so that was my only tense moments. I made some maneuvers to get further away from them so I could avoid them. As it ended up, they couldn't reach me. I went back to where I was climbing and I continued to go up to the top.
KING: Are you glad you did it?
WILLIG: I'm very glad I did it. However, when I was watching television and saw those towers basically collapse, be destroyed, my first thought was, "I wish I had never done it," because I thought maybe my climbing of them might have created them as somewhat of an attraction. My first emotional reaction was to regret having done it.
Now I realize that was just my emotional reaction and -- I'm really glad I did it now, because they got humanized a little bit by I think every act that occurred there.
KING: As Paul said very well. Thanks, George.
WILLIG: Thank you, Larry.
KING: When we come back, our panel remains. We will be joined by the executive chef of what was Windows on the World, the most successful restaurant in the world. That's next. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the most dramatic events in New York City in the 1960s was the construction of the World Trade Center. Design and construction would take years and efforts of thousands of people. A project of this size created enormous challenges, challenges that demanded the use of dramatic, new engineering concepts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Our panel remains, and we are joined now in New York by the executive chef of what was Windows on the World, Michael Lomonaco. There's a Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund for those people who worked there. The Web site is WindowsOfHope.org.
How long were you with the restaurant, Michael?
MICHAEL LOMONACO, EXECUTIVE CHEF, "WINDOWS ON THE WORLD": Just over four years. I started in 1997, in the summer of 1997.
KING: Where were you that morning?
Actually, most every morning I went up to the kitchen or my office by 8:15 or 8:30, and I was at the towers, and just that morning in particular I decided not to go up and instead of going to the elevator bank and taking an express elevator up to a sky lobby and going up, I went into one of the shops. I went into an optometrist shop, actually. I needed new reading glasses. And that morning was such a beautiful, clear morning, I wanted my glasses then, and I walked into the shop and that's where I was when the first plane hit.
KING: How many of your employees were lost?
LOMONACO: We lost 79 people, and for the first week we really -- they were missing, and we were just hoping that they got down those fire stairs. I was in the concourse level right below the building, so I evacuated out of the building as everyone else did in the concourse level. When I got out to the street and saw what had happened, I just -- the first thing I thought of was all of my friends, all of my coworkers. But then I thought, there are three good, sturdy fire exits -- people will get down.
KING: How many people were having breakfast there that morning?
LOMONACO: Well, there's a kind of an uncertain number, but it figures to be around 100, because there were a number of people having breakfast in a private function, a private breakfast that a company was having. And so, they had the attendance figures. And we also had -- the World Trade Center had a club, which existed from the very first day that Windows on the World opened. That was a private club, and there were a number of people having breakfast in the club.
KING: All of our guests have been there, I've been there. What made it so special as a restaurant?
LOMONACO: Well, it was really more than the view, although that was the first thing that you would think of, but it was a very special place to experience New York. And I really believe that from Tower #2, you could see the view. You could see all of the view that you could ever want, but from Windows on the World you got to be part of sort of the excitement of New York and experience it and be part of New York at that very instant. So I think it really created that excitement of living New York. KING: Harry, what was it to you?
SMITH: I had been there several times and I had dinner there. I'd actually shot some shows from there using the Windows as a vista onto the rest of New York City. I have two sons, one in sixth grade, one in second grade, and I can tell you that the sixth-grader was somewhat affected by all of this. He is aware of what's going on. The second-grader much less so, but one of the first things he said was: "I'm so glad I got a chance to go to the top of that building."
KING: David, what did you think of the restaurant?
HALBERSTAM: Well, I -- we took a wonderful -- my wife and I took a wonderful young woman named Amanda Earl (ph), who had worked with our family and with our daughter, when she was I think leaving our family, and we wanted to celebrate our love for her but also her love of New York, and that was the place we chose, because it was such a great view and you had a sense of the city. The richness of all the city and the energy, and you could look out and see. So it was -- I mean, the food was very good, and the city around it was very good, too.
KING: Paul, for a tourist spot, it had very good food, did it not?
GOLDBERGER: It had spectacular food. You know, Windows was created by -- originally by Joe Baum who I knew and was privileged to know who was really the inventor of the great modern American restaurant. And then, under David Emil and with Michael Lomonaco's cooking, it just became more and more extraordinary and combined remarkable food with this staggeringly amazing setting. So it was really a place that even had roots in the history of the American restaurant as well as looked to the future.
KING: It was actually three restaurants in one almost, right, Michael? Had a great wine cellar, right?
LOMONACO: That's true. The wine cellar was historical in its depth. For 25 years -- this was the 25th anniversary of the restaurant, as a matter of fact -- Kevin Zraly had been the wine director for the past 25 years and created a spectacular wine cellar that was world famous.
And we had three restaurants there, you're right. It was more than just one restaurant. There was catering, and we had Windows on the World and Wild Blue and we had a bar that was one of the most popular night club bars in the city, as well as we served lunch. There were all different price points.
It was a very democratic experience. You could choose different levels. You know, you could go the expensive restaurant or just have a burger in the bar, and that made it accessible to people, and that's what we wanted. And we always strived to do the best that we could in food and wine so that we -- we didn't want to compete with the view, but we wanted to be equal to the view or at least in the experience of the guest. KING: And you're still with the company that owned it, right?
LOMONACO: We -- there are a number of us still together. We are trying to do something else, trying to form some other projects and move ahead. And you know, we have 350 co-workers, colleagues who were displaced out of work, and anything we could do to do something else to put some people back to work is an exciting thought.
KING: And we have that Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund. Their Web site is WindowsOfHope.org. Thanks, Michael.
LOMONACO: Thank you.
KING: When we come back, Robert Abrams, the publisher of the "World Trade Center Remembered," due out in November. We will join our panel right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In August, 1968, actual steel construction began. Kangaroo cranes imported from Australia were used for the first time in the United States. The cranes were assembled on top of the core columns. Each could lift 60 tons at a time. They would be the driving force behind the towers' construction. The cranes had the ability to jack themselves up 36 feet at a jump.
As the walls grew to the height of the crane, the crane would hoist itself up, a neighboring crane would swing core columns into place beneath it and construction would continue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We are back. By the way, the volume of the entire Empire State Building, now the tallest building in New York, could fit into the two basements of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers and it would take up to two years to take the Twin Towers apart piece by piece.
Joining us now in New York is Robert Abrams, publisher of the "World Trade Center Remembered." It's due out in November, and portions of profits from that book will be donated to the American Red Cross.
What's the concept of the book, Robert?
ROBERT ABRAMS, "WORLD TRADE CENTER REMEMBERED": The concept, Larry, is to show the Twin Towers as they were before September 11. It was a big part of my personal and professional landscape. I lived six blocks north of the towers, in Tribeca, and my office is -- was right across the street from the Twin Towers. I had a fabulous view of both buildings.
And my wife and I were in our loft when the first plane came over our loft, probably about 200 feet above us, and then there was an explosion, and we watched the rest of the attack from our loft. KING: Wow.
ABRAMS: The one of our photographers with whom we've done four books, a great photographer, Angelo LeMayo (ph), with his late wife Sonya Balotti (ph) had taken 300 pictures of the Twin Towers over a period of time, and Angelo called our editor, Susan Costello (ph), and mentioned that he had these documents, and Susan told me about them, and this was really barely a week after the attack.
And I went to see them at Angelo's apartment, and with all the mixed feelings I think that all of us had in those early days and still do have, I was extremely moved, moved in a way that I really couldn't put my finger on, but it was similar to looking at pictures of my kids who are now all grown.
KING: So that will be the book, and then you hired Mr. Goldberger to write the text?
ABRAMS: Then we were very fortunate to be able to get Paul to do a brilliant text for the buildings. And the concept of the book is a remembrance. It's a memorial.
KING: Like Harry Smith's -- these are the buildings when it was alive. We are seeing concepts from the Smith show.
SMITH: Very much so.
KING: This will have great interest, don't you think, Harry?
SMITH: You know, it's interesting because we've actually aired the show a couple of times already, and every time we air it more people watch. And while we were nervous about it at first, I think really what the show shows is that this was an amazing place, as you said earlier. It's a city within a city. Tens of thousands of people who worked there and enjoyed life there to a great extent.
And what the show really is a tribute to the buildings and to the people who worked there, especially to the folks who refortified them in 1993 and made them safe again so commerce and life could continue on there. So it -- what originally started as a tribute has turned into in its own way an obituary, but it very much is a tribute to the buildings and folks from there.
KING: And David, your book will be the events, the photograph events since September 11?
HALBERSTAM: But it's really not my book, Larry. It's really about the brilliant magnum photographers. You know, magnum has going back to the great Robert Cappa (ph) is this photographers cooperative, and Cappa (ph) going (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- D-Day, Cappa -- Spanish Civil War -- I mean, there is an enormous history there, and these younger photographers have done what is really a brilliant book that just brings that whole moment back to you with a shocking luminescence. I mean, it's amazingly well done. KING: And you wrote the forward?
HALBERSTAM: I'm a cameo player.
KING: Now, Paul, is it hard to write text for photographs?
GOLDBERGER: When the photographs are as beautiful and as moving as these it's not so hard. And Bob Abrams and Susan Costello (ph) came to me with really what I thought was a wonderful challenge, which was just to write your heart out about the building, write what you didn't like, write what you did like, write what they mean, write what they once meant, write what they will continue to mean going forward.
And I loved their concept of the book, which is this extraordinary album of magnificent images which remind us -- it breaks your heart when you look at them and you see what we have lost, and yet a chance to sort of think about that and what buildings mean and what this building above all means was just too exciting an opportunity to turn down. So of course, I said yes, and I felt very strongly, as Bob Abrams did, that this is a book about the buildings, not a book about the tragic events of September 11.
KING: But one thing you want to add quickly? We are running out of time.
GOLDBERGER: OK. The one image that it will have that is not taken by Angelo is a photograph at the very end of the introduction that is just of the skyline without the Trade Center, so that you see the void.
KING: I want to thank you all. I salute you all. Harry Smith, you'll be seeing the documentary again on November 13; David Halberstam, his current book "War in the Time of Peace," a major bestseller, and he writes the forward to "New York, September 11, 2001"; Paul Goldberger, the architectural critic for the "New Yorker" who writes the text for the "World Trade Center Remembered"; and Robert Abrams, one of the major names in American publishing, the book, "The World Trade Center Remembered" is due in November.
We will be back with a special musical close right after this.
KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING WEEKEND: A look at ground zero remembered.
We leave you tonight with a special musical piece set to views you'll never see again, views from the top of the World Trade Center. I'm Larry King. Good night.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com