It is still there.
Not destruction, not excavation, not rebuilding and certainly not the passage of two years have erased "World Trade Center" from the map.
That name has persisted quietly, at some subconscious civic level, without official edict. It is poignant, on reflection, to find yourself on an E train marked "World Trade Center" or in a station with "Chambers Street WTC" plaques on the platform columns. But it is no longer startling.
And it is no longer simply a reference to the past.
Instead, a series of decisions points to "World Trade Center" as the formal, future name of that acreage downtown, Daniel Libeskind designs and all. This matters because what New Yorkers call the place will shape how they think about it. How they think about it will inform how they plan it. "You certainly couldn't call it ground zero," said Joseph J. Seymour, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the site and has given the name World Trade Center to the rebuilt PATH station, which will open in November.
"By naming it the World Trade Center station, it's really a statement of respect for those that died there and what happened there," Mr. Seymour said. "At the same time, I think it's a statement of hope, that the World Trade Center will come back to be a powerful and meaningful development."
Larry A. Silverstein, the leaseholder and likely developer of the site, intends the World Trade Center name to endure not only in the first tower he is planning but across the entire property.
"They will be World Trade Center towers," Mr. Silverstein said this week. "We haven't assigned them a number because we're not sure which tower will follow the Freedom Tower. Time will tell that."
Freedom Tower is the name given by Gov. George E. Pataki to the 1,776-foot skyscraper that is to anchor the site on the skyline. Mr. Silverstein has decided to call the tower north of that 7 World Trade Center, which was the name of the structure that stood there until Sept. 11, 2001.
"There is an enormous amount of emotion vested in that decision," Mr. Silverstein said.
"In my way of thinking, to call it anything else would be to try to deny, if you will, the reality of what transpired on Sept. 11, and to have the terrorists accomplish in some small measure what they tried to do."
The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is also involved in planning the trade center site, has "given no consideration to changing the name," said Matthew Higgins, the chief operating officer. "And no one has raised the prospect with us."
The World Trade Centers Association has already arranged to return its headquarters to the site, said its president, Guy F. Tozzoli. The group represents 286 trade centers in 87 countries.
Mr. Tozzoli was the original director of the world trade department at the Port Authority, responsible for planning, building, renting and operating the first World Trade Center.
He suspects that the name Freedom Tower will be supplanted in time by World Trade Center. "That name will endure forever," Mr. Tozzoli said. "It probably has more meaning now than it did before."
But not everyone believes that the name is fitting for future development. The New York chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts is sponsoring a panel next Wednesday on the subject of recreating the identity of the trade center site (www.aigany.org).
"As soon as you call it the trade center, you imply that it should be a coordinated complex of large-scale buildings that has a kind of heroic quality," said James Biber, a partner in the Pentagram design firm and a panelist.
"It pretty much negates being connected back to the city fabric."
Susan S. Szenasy, co-director of the Rebuild Downtown Our Town coalition and editor in chief of Metropolis magazine, called World Trade Center a "great name" for what it was. "It doesn't fit any more," she said. "We keep calling it the trade center but it's not. It can't be." She will moderate the panel.
She has been thinking instead of names along the lines of 9/11 Memorial Plaza. "The date somehow has to be marked," Ms. Szenasy said.
Although there are other names with historical connections to the site or its environs — Hudson Terminal, Washington Market, Telegram Square, Radio Row, Little Syria — none seem quite right.
Yet Ann Harakawa, a panelist and a principal in the design firm Two Twelve Associates, which lost its office at 90 West Street in the Sept. 11 attack, said a new identity for the site should acknowledge its context.
That name, she said, will affect whether the site is perceived as a discrete 16-acre parcel or part of a broader district.
Two Twelve proposed to Mr. Silverstein that he call his first building 1 Greenwich Plaza, recognizing the plan to recreate Greenwich Street, a north-south route that had been cut off by the trade center.
"We said, `How can you call it 7 World Trade Center when there's no 1 through 6?' " Ms. Harakawa said. "We loved the idea of using Greenwich, particularly because we were in favor of extending Greenwich Street through the site."
But Mr. Silverstein would have none of it. "I looked at them absolutely appalled and I said, loudly and immediately, `No,' " he recalled.
As one of the several million New Yorkers who still say Sixth Avenue, 58 years after it was renamed Avenue of the Americas, Mr. Silverstein offered a practical reason for keeping the name World Trade Center.
"Even if we wanted to call it something else, New Yorkers would continue to call it what it was," he said. "That's the way New Yorkers are."