ETA – originally posted 9/11/2013 from NYC)
9/11/14 This is the first anniversary of September 11 in 13 years that I won’t be following my ritual, since I’ll be traveling. Still, there’s something oddly comforting, and not a little coincidental, that I’ll happen to be in NY on this day.
Later today, at a little before 9 a.m. New York Time, I will do what I’ve done for 12 years. I’ll turn on the TV and sit through the reading of all the names of those lost in the September 11 attacks with last names starting from A through H. I know that every victim deserves my remembrance, and I do remember them, but I make a special effort to hear the names read of the 6 people I knew well who were in the towers on that morning. Four civilians and two Fire Department Chiefs.
They won’t read the name of my friend and client, Fred, who was there that day and got himself and his entire organization out safely, but who was never the same man again. I always think of him, too.
The image I selected for this post is The Freedom Tower. It’s been going up now for several years. And I never saw it. I never noticed it despite the fact that since 2001 I’ve been right there pretty often. I passed by that construction site hundreds of times. I shopped across the street from it. I go into the subway a block up from it. Yet, it wasn’t until August 2012 that I noticed there was a building there- the Freedom Tower.
I was fulfilling one of those social engagements one just can’t say “no” to: a dinner cruise around Manhattan on the Bateaux departing out of Chelsea Piers. Not high on my list of activities after years of cruises around Manhattan. When dinner was over, we went outside to see the view, and my friend pointed out the Freedom Tower. My mouth was agape. How could I have missed it rising all these years?
Simple. I just never looked up anymore when I was downtown. I purposely didn’t look up. During the days and even years after 9/11 it was so painful to look up and see the empty sky where the towers used to be. A scar in the sky – or an amputation – missing limbs. I don’t know how many times I got a little turned around somewhere below 34th street, and just looked up to find the towers and my sense of direction. Or how often tourists would stop me and ask the way to Statue of Liberty, Battery Park or some other downtown landmark – and I would point to the Towers and say “walk that way.”
I don’t remember what organization gave this gift to the my city, but it meant something. Lights beamed up to infinity from the very place where the towers were. They’ll be lit tomorrow as well.
The Freedom Tower is on the site of the World Trade Center, but it isn’t exactly where the Towers were. Where the Towers were is now part of the Plaza Memorial. The footprints of the two towers are now reflecting pools. It’s surprising how small they are. 1 WTC and 2 WTC as most New Yorkers knew them ( not the North and South Tower as we know them now), were sliver buildings. If you were on a high floor on a windy day, you could actually feel yourself swaying with the building.
It’s amazing, the thought and symbolism that went into the entire memorial site, from the 1776 ft. height of the building itself, to the placement of skylights in the subway concourse that will capture the sun just so every September 11, like the pyramids or Stonehenge, to the pear tree that was rescued from the wreckage, replanted and fostered on Long Island and replanted in the plaza.
I don’t know why I chose to write about the new building instead of the day. Long story short: I was drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, watching The Today Show and lazily getting ready to get dressed and go to a client’s office downtown to meet with her and pick up some papers before I continued further South to my own office. On TV, I saw the first plane hit a few moments after it happened and watched the second plane hit in real time.
I was watching live TV when 2 WTC collapsed on itself and when 1 WTC collapsed.
I never made it to my meeting, The papers I was going to pick up became part of the ash that rained down on the city. The lovely woman on whose desk they probably lay was gone, too. She died trying to save lives.