The Towers

The Towers

In August of 1995, Wonder Woman’s parents, who could not believe that the long-haired schmuck their daughter was dating was so much of a rube that he had never in all of his 25 years of living in the Northeast been to New York City, decided to take their daughter and said rube on a whirlwind tour of Manhattan Island.

We drove from Philly to Jersey, then took the ferry across the Hudson. The picture shown above, as awful and grainy as it is (I wasn’t into photography back then), is basically the first view I ever had of New York City.

Once we reached the other side, we drove off the ferry, and our first stop was the World Trade Center. My mother-in-law waited in the car while my father-in-law took us inside and up to the observatory. I could not believe how huge the city was (nor how huge the towers were).

We worked our way north, stopping at various noteworthy locations along the way, and at one point posed for this photo.

I immediately fell in love with New York City; in fact, WW and I drove back down in my P.O.S. Hyundai just a few days later in order to attend a taping of “The Late Show with David Letterman” during which Van Halen was the musical guest. (Another story for another time.)

In the six years that followed, I went to New York City every chance I got. When 9/11 happened, I felt my gut wrenched in a way that I don’t think it would have been had I never spent any time there. If you’ve never been there, you can’t fathom what the place is like, and I believe that anyone who had spent time there prior to 9/11 probably experienced the destruction of the Towers in a more visceral way than those who had never been.

In October of 2001, Wonder Woman and I had plans to celebrate our third wedding anniversary by spending the first weekend of that month in New York City with her parents, as well her brother and his wife, who were celebrating their seventh anniversary. My father-in-law, at the time, worked in the Bronx, and commuted there from Philadelphia by train every day. He was in the Bronx on 9/11, and I dare say that he experienced the destruction of the Towers in a more visceral way than most people. We had made our plans well in advance, and in the immediate wake of the attacks, we looked to him to decide whether or not we’d still go through with them. He said we should, so we did. I’m glad he chose that way.

Being in Manhattan three-and-a-half weeks after the Towers fell was beyond surreal. The walls outside the train stations were covered with pictures of people who were missing, and there was a general pall on the city. It felt like a different place.

We saw Bjork perform at Radio City Music Hall our first night in town. Before the show, we went to the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller center, and from there, we saw the beams of light that shone in place of the fallen towers. It was almost impossible to believe they were gone.

The next day, we went down to “Ground Zero.” The air was still filled with smoke and irritants, and it doesn’t surprise me that many workers developed respiratory problems, because three-and-a-half weeks after the attacks, the air quality was such that I was coughing and my eyes were watering.

As you would imagine, standing there and looking at the wreckage … the damage to all the surrounding buildings … it drove it home in a way the television can’t. The magnitude of it all was just mind-boggling. A massive piece of the world — one of its most recognizable, iconic pieces, at that — had been summarily deleted. It stretched the limits of human comprehension.

In recent days, while marking the eighth anniversary of the tragedy, I’ve often heard people say, or seen them write, “We must never forget.” I understand the sentiment behind those words, but I honestly don’t know if the words themselves are apropos; how could anyone ever forget? Is that even possible?

I know I could never forget, even if I wanted to. Fortunately, I’ll also never forget what it was like when the Towers were still there.

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11 Comments

  1. Posted September 15, 2009 at 4:43 am | Permalink

    Great post and I feel bad for those that never saw NYC before 9/11. On a second note HEllo long hair Daddy S !! You are such a rocker!

  2. Posted September 15, 2009 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    I’ve lived in Maryland all my life and have still not see NYC. Love the long hair, dude! At least for comic relief.
    .-= toadmama´s last blog ..It’s Coming =-.

  3. Posted September 15, 2009 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Beautiful picture.
    .-= Lauren From Texas´s last blog ..That Time When We Couldn’t Catch A Break. =-.

  4. Posted September 15, 2009 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Great post. I was in New York for New Year’s Day 2001/2002 and spent quite a bit of time at ground zero, just reflecting. It was amazing the progress they had made in 3 1/2 months, and amazing how devastated the immediate area still was. The surrounding buildings with their damage, the silence even though they were still cleaning the area. They had a Christmas tree up and the American flag. In that moment, I have never felt more pride for my country.
    .-= Casey´s last blog ..Pineappe Project – Round 5 =-.

  5. Posted September 15, 2009 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Yep. It’s been that week. Great, moving post.

    I remember talking to my parents about Pearl Harbor. And they, who had never lived in Hawaii, nor served in the Navy (Dad was army), cried. Cried! About a bombing so remote in my mind that it almost didn’t happen except in a book.

    Although I used to live in NYC, I think even people who loathe NYC – have never been near it – are brought up short by that day. I hope, to my children, I can make the abrupt ache of that day real, despite it happening in a world before they were even born.
    .-= rebekah´s last blog ..Unbelievably… =-.

  6. reen
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    I think when people remind us to “never forget,” it’s not so much the event itself which, of course, will be impossible to forget, but that we need to hang on to that global and prevailing sense of unity that immediately followed, and our honor and admiration of the emergency workers and everyday people who stepped forward to help. It’s become easy for some people to distance themselves from that. That’s how I see the phrase, anyway.

    When I lived in Hartford in the ’80s I spent some time in Manhattan and I’ll always be glad I did. It does make it that much more surreal and painful, though. Great post and a lovely vintage photo.

  7. Jen
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Totally, not related to 9/11…. BUT I was at that Bjork show! YES!

  8. Maggie, living in Bliss
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    People don’t forget events like that. I was 9 years old when President Kennedy was assassinated. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Same with 9-11.

    What we eventually forget, or shove to the back of our minds, are the emotions, and the promises made in the endorphic rush of those emotions.

    We all remember how everyone in this country became one that day. No talk of Democrats, Republicans, liberals, or conservatives. Just an incredible nation, deeply grieving the murders of our fellow citizens as one, and knowing we would always stand together after that day. We knew it, we promised it, and we believed it.

    And then, we dismissed it.

    So, even though we remember the day and the horrors – the horrors some survived and others didn’t, as the rest of us watched – we’ve somehow forgotten that on that day, that mind-numbing, horror-laden day, we were one.

    That’s worth a tear or two.

  9. Posted September 15, 2009 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Great post, as usual.

    And seriously, when you said long-haired schmuck, I had no idea what I was in for with that pic. That was awesome.
    .-= Joe´s last blog ..Yard Sale and Other Stuff =-.

  10. Posted September 17, 2009 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    I loved the pic…because it wasn’t perfect! My hubby and I on the other hand marveled at the pic of you with long hair! Didn’t see that one coming!!!
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..This Oughta Brighten Your Day! =-.

  11. Posted September 18, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    I love the photo, the graininess makes it look really cool! Also: BJORK!!! That is all.
    .-= Kara´s last blog ..Clutch! =-.

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