Monday, September 11, 2006
Tower of Song
For anyone who'd never been in/to the World Trade Center, it is hard to say what you were missing other than the view of them and from them. I'd been in the concourse dozens of times, but I'd only been at the observation deck twice and at Windows to the World only once. All of them hazy days. The first time was my inagural trip the city - my high school graduation present from my parents. I still have the pics I took w/my Pentax K100. The second time was with a friend which was her first visit to the city. That meant a little more to me - as I knew the city at which I was now looking. I pointed things out that weren't the Empire State or Chrysler bldgs, which was about all I could identify that first time.
My one time on Windows to the World was just an office outing with the library staff @ Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft. The WttW experience was only drinks, no dinner, but it was with a fun group of people, that unfortunately I have fallen out of contact with over the last 22 years. Hands down, that was the best summer ever (thanks Ade!) ! At that time the firm was located at 1 Wall St. Literally the office existed within the shadow of the towers. Actually, not much down there didn't. The thing that strikes me now is that without the towers how light downtown has become.
My first time back to the city post 9/11 was only a month after the fact. We had already had a trip planned to DC, then directly up to NYC. Both cities were in flux. In DC, the Metro was free, as the city was practically begging anyone to do anything around town. If it weren't for Becky and Andrew, we would have skipped DC. Jon and Tommy did. (yes, they were the ones that let the terrorists win!).
Driving into Manhattan was most unnerving. The approach to the Lincoln Tunnel was disturbing for two reasons: one being the jet that was approaching Newark and low in the sky over the Hudson. Never has a jetliner make me stop and think "OMG" - (unless I was on it and it had screaming kids, but that is a differnt kind of OMG). The other was curving down prior to entering the tunnel - where you get a great view of the city - and what was missing. The downtown skyline is so packed, that in a weird way, from that angle, if you'd never seen the city before, there did not look like any building - let alone two - were missing. But they were - and the loss was palpable.
Subway lines in NYC were sporadic at best. Waiting on platforms for trains that never came b/c of suspicous packages left behind. Or worse, stuck in trains for 40 minutes while they checked out said packages. On a day out, we actually walked from mid-town to Battery Park with no real intention to see the site....but there it was. Unavoidable. And still burning a month later.
I know many people who found the WTC an eyesore. Personally, I liked the buildings. I never worked in the WTC - but they served such a useful everyday puprose. For anyone unfamililar with the island and attempting to navigate Manhattan, all you needed was to spot the towers, which were visible from just about anywhere, to figure out which direction you needed/wanted to go or at least were headed in.
I actually made my first trip to the Empire State Bldg. I never felt any need to go. This time I did. It was a few nights before they turned off the beams of light that shone into the sky from the WTC site. I don't know that I've ever been colder. 20 degrees at street level became 20 below eighty-six flights up. Literally, I could stand outside for about 30-60 seconds at a time. And it was all worth it. Those spots were a better tribute and memorial to the towers than any Freedom Tower, which I find to be completely self-indulgent.
When my OCD kicks in, it can kick in hard. If I get on a subject, I can read and/or watch everything on it. This wasn't too much the case for 9/11. I watched a number of PBS specials on 'why the towers fell', but in reality, most of them are just too painful to deal with. Even in Farenheit 9/11 when the screen goes black and doesn't even show a plane hit, I turned away from the movie screen. But there are two WTC things I recommend:
Ric Burns' eighth part of his New York series: Center of the World. It is a three hour history of the WTC and doesn't completely focus on 9/11. Actually parts 1-7 on city history are great.
For something a bit more harrowing: the book 102 Minutes. As best of a reconstruction of what happens in the towers from the time the first plane hits until the second tower falls. It is both an easy and uneasy read. I don't know how else to describe it.