One summer day in 1985, I stood with my brother and grandmonster (I had just seen St Elmos Fire) atop the twin towers, overlooking New York. I was 15, my brother was 13 and we were living for a week in Grandma’s one bedroom flat on the upper west side, about three blocks from Harlem, when such things seemed to matter more. We’d seen Radio City and Rockafeller, Coney Isle and Chinatown, but overlooking the whole of the city from the tallest roof, and from behind razor wire and a chain-link fence was most memorable. So no one jumps, Grandma stated matter-of-factly when I asked why we were caged in way up there. For about an hour I looked through the fence squares down at the tiny everything below. I have no photos of that trip.
On September 1 of 2001, my Maid of Honor sent me a beautiful email describing the view from her temp job on the 80th floor of the WTC. I was 9 months pregnant and thrilled for her to be living the big city dream she had envisioned after growing up in rural Michigan. ‘Airplanes below me’, ‘tiny boats on the Hudson,’ and a view forever of the most formidable city in the nation. The morning of the 11th, she managed to get a quick email out detailing her plan: walking home from Midtown across the Brooklyn bridge, from her newly assigned temp job. Then systems went down. Missed it by days. I was a mess for a while after that.
Twenty nine years passed between my first and second visit to NYC. I live on the other coast now, but traveled to NYC for a trade show last year. It was the first time I’d been to that city in 29 years. I spent Saturday morning in the financial district, hoping to see the new WTC building. I wandered through the deserted district on that clear, frosty morning, stunned that of the eight million people in this city, none of them were in sight. Not a one. I passed bronze memorial reliefs on adjacent walls, but couldn’t see in the complex for the construction barricades, so I walked to Battery Park just after sunrise. It gave the best photos that morning, with the top of the tower shining in the sun, except where there were still a few missing panes of glass at the very top corner.
This year is 30 years since I first visited NYC. In advance of my visit, I attempted to find observation deck hours, hoping they would mesh with my conference schedule. Open Spring 2015. January is decidely not spring, though one can hope…. It’s probably not consequential that I spent the whole weekend in NYC talking to people about climbing the highest mountain in the world. We all have our objectives. Some are closer than they seem. Some are farther. One of mine seems to be on the observation deck of a certain building. Maybe 31 years will be the time for me to stand up there again.