Today we are delighted to introduce Mark, our newest Team Writer. You can find Mark on Twitter as @Marklf
‘New York City, like any world-class city, is more than a collection of buildings, it is also a collection of people and stories. Over time I hope to relate many of those stories as you get to know my city…
This first entry is about all three – buildings, people, stories and the soul of the city. It’s a story that needs to be told and remembered every year at this time.
When I was young, the Empire State Building, best known for its relationship with King Kong, was the tallest building in the world. As a kid, I always thought it would be – until the announcement in the late 1960’s that the Port Authority was about to build twin towers which would be taller. They were to be called the World Trade Center.
I was in college about 100 miles away from NYC as it was being built, as each time I drove home or back to school, I passed the construction site at the tip of Manhattan Island. I watched as it grew from a hole in the ground into the (then) tallest building in the world. Eventually, it became part of the NYC fabric.
Now jump ahead many years. I hadn’t been feeling completely well that morning in September. My daughter had been living in Florida (1100 miles/1800 km) south of NYC. It was about 10 AM when my phone rang and she was on the other end. The first thing she asked me was if the world was coming to an end. I had no idea what she was talking about – I had been asleep until she called. She told me that the World Trade Center was gone. All I could imagine was an alien spaceship coming down and pulling them up … the concept was completely unimaginable! But a look out from my bedroom window on Staten Island in the direction of Manhattan Island showed a dark black cloud in the sky.
I tuned the TV on to see images of the second tower collapsing on itself. This was a September 11 that was to change life forever. Two jumbo jets had been flown into the towers of the World Trade Center.
School had just started after summer vacation, and my wife was at school when news of the terrorist attack was broadcast. Teachers were informed about what had happened but the children weren’t. School was locked down until it could be decided what had happened and what should be done. Eventually, each child had to be picked up by a parent or designated relative. They didn’t know it yet, but a large number of children in my wife’s school, as well as in every school in the city and the surrounding communities, had lost one (or both) parents in the attack.
This was NYC, where rather than coming apart when disasters hit, we come together as any small community would do and help each other. This day was no different. Neighbors took care of neighbors, and the whole city took care of each other. First responders went in to the dying buildings to save as many people as possible. Many of NYC’s finest (police) and bravest (firemen) lost their lives in that attempt. Many of those who didn’t perish on that day, have died in the years following from the contaminants ingested in the days following the attack. I was in the emergency room the next night, and in the bed next to me was the wife of a fireman working on the site. He had come home for a short break, and she had a reaction to his debris covered clothes and body.
Everyone in the city was affected, and there was not a person who did not know someone who was either lost that day, or knew someone who lost a friend or relative. I lost 2 high school classmates of mine, as did my son … all were firemen and first responders on the scene.
But we are NYers, and while we may be hit and hit hard, we are never defeated, and we weren’t that day, 11 years ago now. Life changed for us in NYC, the United States, and indeed the world, but we came back with a resolve to go forward and not let those who attacked us, defeat us. We are rebuilding on the site of the former twin towers with a new building – the Freedom Tower – which will stand 1776 feet tall (The US gained it’s independence in the year 1776). It is nearing completion now, and has taken its place as the tallest in the city – a title which the Empire State Building reluctantly had regained. When complete, it will be the tallest building in North America. The NYC spirit is indomitable!
Today, while every NYer lives with the memory of that attack on our home, normal life continues.
Stop by next time to see some of that NYC lifestyle that might actually surprise you.
Mark is a native New Yorker – born in Public School 109, Manhattan! He has retired from careers in fashion and publishing and today enjoys being a grandfather. He has traveled by car across the US and Canada as well as traveling in the Caribbean and Europe. An avid photographer since he was very young, upon retirement he has picked up the camera once again. He is also a regular visitor to Walt Disney World in Florida, where his daughter lives and works.
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