Hours after the twin towers vanished from Lower Manhattan's skyline on Sept. 11, 2001, nearby Fiterman Hall at Borough of Manhattan Community College remained standing.
But the building, covered in debris and a heaping pile of mangled steel with its windows blown out, was damaged beyond repair.
Nearly 11 years later, a newly reconstructed $325 million Fiterman Hall is set to open Monday. The students, many of them forced to attend classes in trailers along the West Side Highway since 9/11, will return to Fiterman for the first time since the attacks.
"It was a very demoralized area here around the World Trade Center," said G. Scott Anderson, the college's vice president of administration and planning. "But this resurrection of Fiterman signifies that there is a rebirth, a renewal down here."
Out of the rubble of Sept. 11, a revitalized World Trade Center site is emerging.
Seven World Trade Center, rebuilt after its fiery collapse left Fiterman Hall uninhabitable, opened in 2006.
For Fiterman, the long road to recovery was not without obstacles.
The rebuilding was delayed by arguments over funding among insurers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the city and the state agency in charge of college buildings. There were also concerns about toxins in the building, which had been officially condemned.
Ultimately the community college, part of the City University of New York system, got the money it needed. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in 2008 that the city would give $53 million more than it had originally promised, bringing its total contribution to $139 million.
By 2009, the old Fiterman Hall had been demolished and construction began.
Today, the sleek 400,000- square-foot building houses 80 classrooms, an art gallery and a music ensemble room. It's modern and bright, thanks in part to large window panels that flood Fiterman's halls with sunlight.
"That day will always be in our memory, but we're determined to look ahead to the future," College President Antonio Perez said.
That future includes a burgeoning student population. The college now boasts a record 24,000 enrollment, up from 17,000 in 2001, giving it the largest undergraduate student body of any school in the city, Perez said.