Rising, Rising, Risen

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.

ORIGINAL POST

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.

The Freedom Tower, NYC

The Freedom Tower, NYC

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.”

WTC Memorial Lights

WTC Memorial Lights

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.

There’s a wonderful 6 part documentary that tracks the new construction of the Freedom Tower.  Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero

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.

33 thoughts on “Rising, Rising, Risen

  1. Thank you, Perry, for sharing your remembrances of that brutal day. The Freedom Tower cannot compensate for the losses. But, as they say, life goes on. We who were part of that day will remember it forever.

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  2. Reblogged this on Obsessive Behavior and commented:
    I was not onsite when this tragedy happened. I was at home (doctor’s appointment) when my secretary called and asked if she should go home with everyone else fleeing the destruction. When I put my television on, I couldn’t believe it. Later, I endured days and days and days of burning smells coming from the WTC site and viewed the destruction of “Ground Zero” for myself. Unimaginable horror. God bless us all.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this touching story. It personalizes 9/11 for those of us so far removed from NYC. I too will watch tomorrow as the names are read.

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  4. That was a terrible day for me too. My then BF worked in 1WTC and I couldn’t get in touch with him for 2 days as lines were down. Luckily he got out in time, but I still can’t watch documentaries about that day. I too have difficulty acknowledging The Freedom Tower, although with time I think that will pass. The NY skyline will never be the same, and is a sad reminder of what that represents.
    I have a lot of fond memories of the Twin Towers and I actually sometimes do the “Rose and the Titanic” and try to remember what it was like to enter the lobby, what was up on the sightseeing deck and so on.

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  5. Thank you for this post, Perry. Very moving even to those of us who were thousands of miles away and just watched on tv, hardly believing it could really be happening.

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    • Thank you Helen, for taking the time to comment. Speaking as a New Yorker I can tell you that the well-wishes and support, as well as the sadness and grief that the world showed to NYC and the U.S. was appreciated.

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  6. I have never known anyone who had first-hand memories of being right there, that horrible day. So thank you for describing your reaction, Perry.I remember my own reaction on the day, being rung by my mum from Germany, and urged to put on the TV. I had to go across the garden to my in-law’s house because we didn’t have a TV at the time, and I remember watching the horror unfold, stunned, with a 5-month-old baby in my lap, wondering what kind of world I had brought her into…

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    • Thank you Guylty. It was surreal. I know some people who were in Two World Trade and left the building immediately after the first plane hit One World Trade. Some were never able to speak even one word of what it was like. Others related what they saw over and over. I was amazingly fortunate that my meeting at One World Trade, on a very high floor was scheduled for noon.

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  7. I wanted to leave a comment Perry, even though for me it was a tragedy that unfolded at a great distance and seemed unfathomable to comprehend. I’ll be thinking of you all during your time of reflection in the morning.

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    • Thank you Katharine. It seemed unfathomable from every distance. New Yorkers don’t have a lock on the grief, but it affected our city in so many real ways for so long. One of my memories, that for some reason has been poking through more this year, is that our hospitals geared up, brought in extra staff, extended shifts, called for blood – and relatively speaking, there just weren’t that many people to treat.

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  8. that was one of those moments in time when you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing. I had a small toddler at home who was riding his wooden airplane rocking toy while watching the news & seeing the planes hit; horrific irony that I’ll never forget! my uncle’s offices were supposed to be in the pentagon but had been moved for construction, I spent half the day on the telephone with relatives trying to find out if he was okay. to think of what it was like for those who were there and all of those relatives who were not okay, is heart wrenching.

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    • You’re right – the irony is eerie. (What ever happened to hobby horses? – oh well-progress) My parents always talked about where they were when they learned John F. Kennedy was shot and I never really understood the significance of that experience for them until 9/11.

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  9. Thanks for the first-hand account. I haven’t been in Lower Manhattan to see the new buildings — I know it will seem strange. My grad school boyfriend lost two first cousins in this tragedy — a tenuous connection for me, but they were people I’d spent the Jewish holidays with and so I always think of his family on this day.

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    • Advanced Tickets are still required to visit the plaza. Eventually of course, the plaza will be a public space. Maybe by that time, I’ll get used to the new building. Losing two family members in one day like is terrible. I can;t imagine how long it took your boyfriend’s family to heal, if ever.

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    • It’s started to grow on me. Seeing it from a distance makes all the difference. It seems a miracle of engineering. That part of New Jersey has really built up with some interesting buildings of its own. All since 2001. Thanks for commenting, Cindy.

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      • It still bugs me to think that I may have been in the same city as RA for an entire week and never saw him. For those who live in NYC, do you constantly stay on the lookout for him ?

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        • I don’t think so. And he’s in and out so much. I’ve lived here all my life, as has Robert DeNiro and have never seen him despite the fact that I frequent his neighborhood. It happens when you least expect it.

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  10. I’ve always wondered how those of you personally connected to those lost and affected – those like you, Perry, who are currently living in NY – truly cope whenever you are downtown and with your memories in general. Perry, your feelings here are painfully felt clear across the country to me in LA. My empathy is strong, but my own memories are stronger and they almost mirror yours in terms of seeing the second impact and the fall of the first and second towers on television.

    The man I was living with at the time woke me to say that my mother had called. My mother never called first thing in the morning, so my feeling was already that of panic and concern – thinking immediately that it was about her or a family member. But she only called to say “Turn on the television”.

    So he and I did. Those are memories etched and black-inked and can never be erased. None of us will ever forget where we were the day the towers, and all its occupants, fell. Not because we simply choose to dutifully and sincerely honor those lost, but because our own painful memories leave us no choice at all.

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