I Was Here at One World Trade Center, NYC - CODAworx

I Was Here at One World Trade Center, NYC


Location: New York, NY, United States

Completion date: 2023

Project Team

Founder and CEO

Marc Aptakin

MadLab Studios

Chief Creative Officer

Roy Husdell

MadLab Studios

Conceptual Artist

Marjorie Guyon

i was here

Project Manager

Johnny Martinez

i was here

Spoken Word Narratives

Barry Burton

i was here


Ilene Shaw

NYC By Design


Toni Sikes


Yoel Meneses

MadLab Studios

Fernando Rodriguez

Madlab Studios


Like an IMAX theater except on the street. The Podium at One World Trade Center – the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan. The spiritual significance of the I WAS HERE installation on this site – originally called ‘The Freedom Tower’ is powerful. The images rose impactfully 200 feet up from the ground, visible from 4 strong vantage points.
Bringing these animated Ancestor Spirit Portraits to the ‘Freedom Tower’ created a monument to the people who built much of this country – including many of the significant buildings of Wall Street.
In collaboration with Design Pavilion, NYCxDesign, MadLabs Studios and Spireworks, the animated Ancestor Spirit Portraits on the Freedom Tower honors and memorializes the Africans whose unpaid and unacknowledged labor and ingenuity built much of Manhattan. The project asks us to examine who we are to each other, who we are as a nation, and how we can work to heal the wound in our citizenship created by enslavement. In bringing the project into public spaces, we hope to raise awareness, which is the beginning of healing.


This installation was designed to bring the message and imagery of I Was Here to New York City in an historically significant public space. One World Trade is sacred space -synonymous with America’s wound - however, the site overlooks the intersection of Wall Street and the East River - the 2’nd largest auction Block of the enslaved in the country. This makes it a wound site in more ways than one.
The goal was to bring imagery portraying the innate power, beauty, dignity and grace of the Africans who were key in building our Country. The installation is an opportunity to fully grasp the profound and unacknowledged contribution of enslaved Africans.
Calling forward the ancestral roots that exist within buildings, cities, and ourselves, the installation is a tribute to those whose names we will never know. Slavery came to Manhattan in 1626. In 1711, a market for the sale of the enslaved opened on a pier at Wall Street on the East River. By legislative act, it was where men, women, and children were sold daily. The city had the second largest slave market in North America, surpassed only by Charleston, South Carolina. By 1850, one in five people in New York City was enslaved. To bring these Spirits onto one of the largest stages in the World was profound and necessary.