WHEN THE TWIN TOWERS of the World Trade Centre in New York were completed in 1970, Guy Tozzoli remembers saying to himself: 'These buildings will be here for a hundred years.' Today, just days after terrorists smashed two planes into the formidable 110-storey skyscrapers, sending both of them crashing to the ground, Tozzoli's voice is sombre. 'I still can't believe they're not here anymore. I've always thought the greatest city in the world should have the greatest landmark in the world. But I will have to go on.' It's difficult to fathom the horror that befell so many innocent New Yorkers. But for Tozzoli, the outrage and disbelief was twofold: not only was he shocked at the loss of innocent lives in this tragedy, his life's dream was shattered before him. Tozzoli, 79, was director of the the World Trade Department which proposed building the mighty twin towers which came to dominate the skyline of New York. He was responsible for the planning and construction of the World Trade Centre, which began in 1962. In 1970, when the centre officially opened, he and a handful of visionaries started the World Trade Centres Association (WTCA), dedicated to promoting peace through trade around the world. For the past 30 years, Tozzoli has served as the WTCA's first and only president. 'It was a terrible act by terrible people,' he says of the terrorist attacks. 'They think when they destroyed the World Trade Centre they destroyed the symbol of capitalism, but they didn't. They destroyed the symbol of peace.' When the New York landmark was just a sketch on a drawing board, Tozzoli already had lofty ambitions - he wanted the World Trade Centre to represent a new idea. 'We wanted it as a dedication to peace and stability for the world, which are the same ideals of the WTCA,' he says. Tozzoli strove for maximum impact. 'I wanted the world to know about our philosophy, and we were not going to make this impact by putting 10 small buildings in New York. It had to be big and visible.' Tozzoli remembers collaborating with Japanese architect Minoru Yamasaki in conceptualising and building the entire complex. 'We both agreed that we wanted more than just a building that houses business. It should function as an entity to enrich the lives of man and a symbol of peace,' he says. With that in mind, the twin towers were created to ensure a maximum of open space on the ground. 'We wanted people to enjoy a good atmosphere.' Tozzoli speaks calmly and clearly, with the true grit of a New Yorker. Before becoming president of the WTCA he spent more than 30 years working with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. When he retired in 1987, he served full-time at the WTCA. A veteran who fought in World War II and the Korean War, Tozzoli has never felt the same kind of torment as he does today. 'It reminded me of the wars,' he says. 'But this is a different kind of war, this is a war against innocent people.' Like every American, he remembers exactly what he was doing the morning of September 11, and like some others, was lucky enough to escape. 'I got up and left my house at 7am that morning because I had an important meeting with some visitors from overseas and I didn't want to be late.' Every morning, Tozzoli has driven the one-hour journey from his home in New Jersey to the WTCA head office, located on what was the 77th floor of the North Tower. He got on the New Jersey Turnpike, passed the Holland Tunnel and went on to Route Three, when a serious bus accident held up traffic for 45 minutes. 'We didn't even move, and I was getting worried about being late for work,' he recalls. A little before 9am he was within three blocks of the World Trade Centre when he looked up and saw an explosion coming from the upper levels of the North Tower. 'I thought perhaps a bomb went off again,' Tozzoli says, recalling the tragic incident in 1993 which left six people dead and 1,000 injured. He and the other drivers around him in the gridlocked traffic got out of their vehicles and stood watching, transfixed. He was dumbfounded - unable to comprehend the events unfolding before his eyes. He witnessed the second plane ploughing into the South Tower 18 minutes later. 'It was a clear day, and I thought about how unlikely it would have been for a plane to be so much off course. But even then, I didn't think the act would be a deliberate one,' says Tozzoli, speaking to the South China Morning Post from his home in New Jersey, now serving as his temporary office. The WTCA is a non-political organisation dedicated to facilitate trade and business service. Tozzoli holds a strong belief that if countries would engage themselves in trade, they would be less likely to engage in war. In 1970, the WTCA had 16 member centres from seven countries. Members are represented by regions, and there are now 330 members in 97 countries, including one in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, and three in China. Championing his philosophy of 'make trade, not war', World Trade Centres around the globe are built as a concentrated hub for trading resources - companies in finance, communications and trade are placed together to enhance the facilitation of business. 'When there is fair trade, everyone eats,' he says. 'I have been fortunate enough to serve as the WTCA president since its birth.' But New York's twin towers were the biggest testament to the WTCA philosophy. 'The image of the twin towers has been more than an image of New York, it was also the image of the WTCA,' Tozzoli says. 'It's not only a terrible time for me and the world, but for all members of the WTCA. The twin towers, created to promote trade, communications and peace, has been reduced to rubble at the hands of these demented terrorists. It is a cruel irony. Even when I saw the explosion I told myself the towers wouldn't collapse,' says Tozzoli. He knew the state-of-the-art-technology that went into building these skyscrapers. 'We ran many computer tests and simulations and the towers were designed to even withstand the force of an airliner. 'They [the attackers] must have been flying that thing at double the normal speed. Then I knew . . . they knew the plane would be loaded with fuel and that the fire from the impact would melt the steel of the building.' Tozzoli is also a humanitarian. For the past 30 years he has travelled the world in his mission to bring nations together in peace through trade. Using the WTCA as a non-political entity, he has assisted in opening dialogue between North and South Korea, and helped facilitate relationships between China and Taiwan. In 1998 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Ho Il Kim, senior member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, for his contributions towards the peace process between North and South Korea. He frequently travels to China and met President Jiang Zemin in May who, according to the China Daily, remarked on the WTCA's role in promoting peace worldwide. In 1997, the WTCA held its annual assembly in Hong Kong with Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa as officiating guest. Tozzoli also established the World Trade Centres Corps, an entity of volunteers with business backgrounds who visit underdeveloped countries and apply their expertise to foster economic growth through trade. Members have travelled widely across Southeast Asia. Right now, there is too much work ahead for Tozzoli to grieve. 'With the help of God, all staff members of the WTCA were able to escape before its collapse,' he says. 'We've lost all our files but will begin immediate efforts to restore the operations of our headquarters. This will take some time, but we'll get the job done. 'New York is a great city, and New Yorkers reacted magnificently to this catastrophe,' he continues. Does he think a new World Trade Centre will rise from the ashes? Tozzoli pauses. 'I don't know the answer to that.'