Friday, September 01, 2006

Five Years On, Part I

As much for me as for anyone else, I thought I would take a look back for a few days leading up to the anniversary of what happened five years ago. Maybe try and make some sense out of everything that’s happened. Maybe shed some light on what’s led me to where I am. Or maybe just write a bit about all the things that zip through my head every five minutes or so, everyday.

Part I

I had never set foot in New York prior to March 15, 1997. Never even seen it from the air or an adjoining state. As a kid, we vacationed primarily in the American West and made it to DC a couple of times but that was it. My childhood friend Thomas had been and shown me pictures and told me about it but that was about it.

So that Saturday my job sent me there for some stuff, not least of which the Saint Patrick’s Day parade that would take place the following Monday as part of our work for Bailey’s Irish Crème. Naturally, I was ecstatic. It was actually my first business trip.

So as our plane from Dallas came in for its approach to Newark, it banked a bit this way and that the way planes do when navigating the god’s eye of NY air traffic. And then suddenly outside my window, like a sheet of concrete and steel laid atop the bristles of a hairbrush—spikes shooting up from seemingly every square inch of it—was the island of Manhattan. It was so dauntingly gray I was mesmerized. The buildings came into view one by one: Chrysler, Empire, Met Life, Woolworth—buildings I had dreamed about from a lifelong fascination with hi-rises. I'd been known to take jobs because they were on high floors. I hope to never work in the suburbs for that same reason. I love my job now because I'm on the 19th floor. I loved tall buildings and wanted nothing more than to work in one. In Dallas I worked on the paltry 15th floor of a 16 story building. That was a pimple compared to these.

And then as we made our way further south along the Hudson they finally came into view: there at the base of Manhattan, two spikes rising impossibly high above the rest. The World Trade Center.

That evening, after checking into our hotel and a quick trip to the Raccoon Lodge (where at once I fell in love with the city and just knew I would someday call it home), we all met for dinner at Odeon, the famous 80’s joint on West Broadway. It was dark by then and as I hopped from the cab, there soaring 110 stories above my head about 6 blocks down was the North Tower of the Trade Center. I’d never seen anything like it. It was the tallest building I’d ever seen. The light upon its antenna was indistinguishable from the stars, honestly.

I suppose part of me fell in love with those towers right then and there. They were always far more beautiful at night: a billion lights in seemingly as many offices that I envisioned were full of young men like myself trading Yen and Pounds and Francs and other currencies of places that were awake. Buildings full of people I didn’t know, people I would never meet but would one day come to know intimately as I read their stories day after day in The Times.

That night, staring up at them, it was and would have been impossible to envision what I'd come to see in a little less than five years time.

Sometimes having no idea what's going to happen is beautiful.


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