Watching the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001, were difficult for all of us.
Having had at least a passing personal acquaintance with one of the sites made those events even more impactful for me. I was hesitant to add my feelings about 9/11 to all of the print, video and radio coverage of the fateful, tragic day as the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the Twins Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the crash in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania forced by passengers on United Way Flight 93 who wanted to prevent another building from being attacked.
At the time I was editor of the “Times-Gazette”. When the planes hit the towers, our staff manned the phones to determine how many former Bedford County residents were based in Manhattan or if anyone was visiting the “Big Apple”.
Thankfully, everyone with a local connection was safe. But after the rush of the news that day I took some time for reflection. I did the same thing this past week.
My first visit to the World Trade Center and New York City was the summer of 1977 when I made the trip to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. I met up with a couple of my friends from college, one of which had been a bat boy for the Yankees growing up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and used his connections to get us tickets.
One of our planned activities was lunch at Windows on the World, the restaurant on the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
If you weren’t wearing a suit and tie you weren’t getting a table. If you wanted a table by the massive windows offering eye-popping views of Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey you needed to pass some cash to the maître’ d’.
The food was great. I had baked trout encrusted in pastry. The views were even better. There was bar where those not wearing suits and ties were allowed to eat as well as the Cellar in the Sky with a wide selection of wines. I would eat there a few years later on my honeymoon watching day turn into night in Manhattan.
It was just as impressive the second time around. And a tip to get a table by the windows was even more costly.
When I recall the collapse of the buildings one thing that stands out for me is the photo of a man who jumped from near the top of the building. He was reported to be one of 79 people who worked in the restaurant who died that day.
A year after the buildings collapsed, I made a visit to the site. It was a gray fall day. I decided early Sunday morning would be the best time since it would be quiet.
I was right. I was the only one there.
The area was almost completely clear, but there were some reminders. A building on one side had been stripped to is bare steel frame. It was covered with chains that creaked and jangled in the wind. Birds flying through the empty spaces inside the building added another touch of eeriness. A Burger King building was still standing, but heat had melted everything plastic connected to the building including the sign.
Two years ago, I visited what is now known as One World Trade Center. Originally called the “Freedom Tower” it is 1,776 feet in height in honor of the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. It is listed as 104 stories in height, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. An observation deck is at the top of and there are places to eat, drink or have coffee, but none of them is called “Windows on the World”. It was considered to not be a viable name for many reasons. Four smaller skyscrapers helped to form the One World Trade Center complex.
But the most dramatic part of the complex are the adjacent 9/11 Memorial and the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
Located in the exact footprints of the original towers the Memorial features two one-acre pools with the world’s largest man-made waterfalls inside them. The pools are surrounded by bronze parapets engraved with the names of the approximately 3,000 victims of 9/11 in addition to six who died in a February 26, 1993, World Trade Center bombing. Combined with a wooded area as part of what is an eight-acre complex it is a fitting place for reflection.
I did not have time to go to the museum, but I plan to visit on my next trip. I realized the other day most of the college students I teach weren’t born when 9/11 occurred. I hope they will want to be part of future remembrances. I hope none of us never forget.