Saturday, September 02, 2006

Five Years On, Part II

I didn’t make it back to New York until September of 1997 when I was sent up there for some reason I honestly don’t even remember now. I think it was some meeting in Connecticut mixed with meetings in NYC. Who knows. But I flew up on Saturday September 14th of that year and met some friends in Little Italy for the San Genaro festival and rounded out Saturday night bitching about Texas getting smoked by UCLA that day 66-3 at home.

I had gone up by myself for that trip so on Sunday I was sitting in my hotel room and realized I had the day to go touring around. I remember walking around a bit earlier that day but there was one place I really wanted to go. That place was the World Trade Center.

Having not been clear about why I was going to the WTC, the cab dropped me off underneath that glass awning that one day would be shattered under the crash of falling bodies. I had actually been dropped off at the North Tower and ended up having to be pointed across the plaza to the tourist area that was the South Tower observation deck. I bought my ticket and waited patiently in line in that marvelous marble lobby before making my way through all the metal detectors, etc. In hindsight I now realize how much we don’t notice because we accept it as “well, it’ll always be there.” Little did I know.

I remember the express ride to the top of the tower being sickeningly fast. 107 floors in something like 45 seconds. Ears popping, throat clearing, the works. And people worked up there everyday! God, I was jealous.

So I popped out on 107 and took an obligatory look around and peered out some of those narrow windows before wondering “which way to the roof?” I ascended the stairs to the roof and emerged on top of the 110-story building onto the little open area observation area, recessed 10-15 feet from the edge. I remember walking around the little teeny ring, taking in the views of the city and the harbor, the sound of the nation’s largest city dampened to nothing at such a great height. It was impossibly tall. The sun was setting as I snapped a few pictures on that peaceful September evening. Those are the pictures posted here.

I took the elevator back down, marveled at the towers from street level for a bit and then took a cab back to my hotel.

My mom always says it shows the difference in our generations and that kids her age always wanted to go to the Empire State Building when they were young. I suppose I just wanted to go to the tall one. I never even went to the top of the Empire State Building until my friend Danny came to visit in late 2002. While it was nice, it would never be the same.

I never set foot in the towers again. I would never again visit their observation deck. I passed by them a few times when I was downtown and they were always my southern beacon when I was lost but I would never again be that close to them. I would never again see what I saw that afternoon, perched 111 stories above Manhattan. But I would live for a year and a half a couple of miles north of them. I could see them from my bedroom window. I could see them out of our office windows.

I suppose I figured I’d see them for the rest of my life. How could something that massive ever not be there?

I often think about what it must have sounded like hanging from one of those windows, waving a shirt in the hopes someone could get to you. It must have been frustrating. And I often wonder if the cool September air was any relief from what must have been awful conditions inside. I hope it wasn’t as bad as it is in my head.


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