Mohawk Ironworkers Help Raise Spire for Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center

May 16, 2013
From beginning to end, from rise to fall to rise again, the noble Mohawk ironworkers have shepherded the sky-scraping towers of the World Trade Center in New York City into existence.

“I worked on the building for four years,” third-generation ironworker John McGowan, Kahnawà:ke, told Kahnawake411, the newspaper for the reserve just outside Montreal. He was recalling his role in building the new One World Trade Center, which stands on the site of the original Twin Towers that fell in the horrifying terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. “It was a great honor to bring back the height to New York.”

The 408-foot-tall, 758-ton spire for the new tower was raised on May 10 and awed many, from the workers themselves to passing tourists, the Associated Press reported.

McGowan was on cleanup duty back when the first two towers fell, and he is part of the team building the 1,776-foot-high “Freedom Tower,” as the now-tallest building in the Western Hemisphere is dubbed.

“It was very sad,” he told the newspaper of the attacks’ aftermath. “Families would come to the site still searching or asking questions. There’s a lot of things that the media never showed that were horrific.”

American Indians and Canadian First Nations were instrumental in raising many of New York's tallest buildings, coming proudly from a tradition that adapted itself well to the work. McGowan is one of about 20 men from Kahnawà:ke working on the trade center job site, according to Kahnawake411. (Related: Documentary Traces Brooklyn's Mohawk Ironworkers)

These videos taken from the spire itself, on cameras installed by McGowan on behalf of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, capture the ascension of the spire in all its dizzying, vertigo-inducing glory. This is what the iron workers see as they toil to help New York rise above tragedy and reach for the stars once again. (Related: Anniversary of 9/11 Felt by Indian Construction Workers)

Below is the shortened, time-lapse Cliff Notes version of the hoisting of the spire. It’s a condensation of the original video that’s underneath it, the latter showing the nine-minute version, in what is presumably real time.


 The Mohawk group that worked on the new 1 World Trade Center, according to  ironworker John McGowan: Preston Horn, Adam Cross, Randy Jacobs, Joe Flo  McComber, Tyler McComber, Louie Cross, Marvin and Keith Brown; many are from  Kahnawà:ke, plus Peter Jacobs from Akwesasne, and Turhan Clause, a Tuscarora  living in Onondaga.

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