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Monday, September 7, 2009

World Trade Center remembered with respect

Thank you for reading this blog. It is a collection of my thoughts, and thoughts on my collections. I find things that run the gamut from cool to bizarre and moral to beyond immoral. I am not shy about my finds, I am looking for something during these hunts and I can't help that my curiosity has me in a frequent state of, "What's This?". This blog has become the receptacle for these finds and my jumping off point for finding the answers to those questions.

I am always amazed at the coincidence some of these items reveal, as I am sure you might have a story to tell about an item from your past arriving on the anniversary of its disappearance, or 2 unrelated people asking you the same question. It would probably make an interesting blog, or maybe there is no antidote for the anecdote.

This post is no different than any other. I continue to find items that have some relevance beyond their everyday usefulness, and that's what keeps me searching. I want to warn you before you read any further that among the old brochures I found at a garage sale in Ridgefield (and talked about in this post) was another item that I was holding until September. If you are sensitive to the tragedy on September 11, 2001, you may want to stop reading and come back another time. My intention is not to shock or surprise, but to honor the memory of an icon of my youth and those that perished in my own way.

The details are fuzzy, but I am pretty sure this was my 6th grade trip to NYC. I had been there before, but this trip was specifically to see the World Trade Center. It was colossal. At that age big stuff is cool and there wasn't anything bigger for a Westchester boy than World Trade Center. Sure, a few years previous we had gone to the Empire State building and that was amazing, but the World Trade Center was new and bigger. It took 2 elevator rides to get to the observation floor, and as I recall they were long rides. At that height it was hard to believe the floor wasn't moving, it just felt surreal to be that high. It was a cloudless day and you could see forever, but the view straight down was more dramatic. There were railings inside an observation floor that kept you from putting your weight or pressing your forehead against the glass (ala Ferris Bueller). I recall being able to see the hood of a Pontiac Firebird as it cruised the streets below, that symbol of the fiery phoenix stood out among the cabs and buses.

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, I was getting ready for work, my wife was already on her way to her work. The TV in the living room was on and I was in the shower when the first plane hit. The TV had turned over to the news and and I could see the image of the single tower burning in the distance and the unconfirmed report that something, possibly a plane had struck it. It seemed a disaster, but it reminded me of the story of the B-25 hitting the Empire State Building, awful but not surprising given busy airline routes and the height of many of New York City's skyscrapers. At first I thought that this was just another high rise fire and  most buildings were designed to for a list of extreme situations. I remembered flying over New York on my way to Florida and marveling at how unreal or model-like the city seemed. I didn't know I was in for a terrifying reality check.

...and then the second plane hit, and I became angry and upset. I felt powerless. I immediately began recording the coverage. I also paced around the house demanding to no one that F-16s should be scrambled and every private and commercial plane should be immediately ordered down. It was an awful feeling as the coverage got closer and closer to the towers and the images were replayed over and over, with the live calls from the people trapped, and interviews with eye-witnesses. The talk of "collapse" increased and after 15 minutes became inevitable, and when it happened seemed like a long drawn out catastrophic nightmare. No hope, no turning back, no rescue, no more towers.

I brought the tapes I had made with me to work around noon and announced to my staff that if they had anyone in NY they were concerned about, they could go home. At that point I didn't think I knew anybody who worked in the World Trade Center. I decided to edit a video of the footage I had recorded to establish some sense of perspective. I mainly wanted to capture the insanity of the media's coverage, but also the juxtaposition of the inane programming that continued to run on other channels despite the tragedy unfolding. It seemed to typify the surrealism of the moment. The random clips of commercials, morning shows and news reports were set to Fat Boy Slim's "Praise You." It seemed a good fit for it's looped repetitious beat and minimalist lyrics that grow to a crescendo and then fades hard with hammering of piano keys. If I can find it I will consider posting a piece of it.

In the days that followed while talking with friends I discovered that I knew someone who had perished. Back in my college days I had come to know twin brothers who involved in student government. They were popular, respected, and fixtures around most student activities and events and were just good people, truly likable, and could have gone in to any field and been successful. My friend Tony was closer to them and I got to know them through him. I was saddened to hear that one of the twins, Stephen Hoffman, had been a broker for Cantor Fitzgerald and didn't make it out. It just didn't seem real. My observation with tragedies of this proportion is, you are left with this gaping unresolvable hole that screws up memory and time. Has it really been 9 years since that day? It seems like it happened last year, and on other days, a 100 years ago.

When I found a box of old travel and vacation brochures at a Ridgefield CT sale, it was this one the froze me stone cold.
I don't think it was ever opened and I was hesitant to disturb the folds. On one side is this panoramic view from the 107th floor, or maybe it's the open-air observation deck above it:
Here is a quarter of that view:

The reverse is a detailed list of facts and information, directions and services, all making quite clear what a marvel this place was.


  1. Dear Greg,
    Each of us, absent the perished 3000, have a living story. The book you found and your long held memories from elementary school bring value, respect and meaning to this horrific day. You have encouraged a conversation in and between each of us with our sad and frightening memories. I was in a bubble on 9/11...driving to the Ct School of Broadcasting to record my demo tape in the studio. I heard the announcer on WPKN make some strange and unexplained allusion that it was fitting that it was Bob Marley's birthday given what had happened today (around 10:00 am) I went to the studio without a notion of the world collapsing and recorded my tape. When I finished, I walked into the director's office around noon. The gentleman said, The Towers are gone.....I was so stunned, mortified, shocked. On my way home, I stopped at Radio Shack and bought a scanner....My brain was in emergency mode...Marilyn and I planted a tree in our front lawn that I had purchased on Saturday..we made a label with the word HOPE and the date. I had taken three friends on a fly by to NYC in the early eighties and at about 1100 ft. was amazed at being "level" with this amazing structure. I had eaten at the Windows of the World restaurant with my English girlfriend Sylvia years earlier. My friend Jan always talked about her very cool friend who worked at Cantor and died that day. Your book and childhood memories have moved me to type at 3:28 am on this still morning. The WTC viewed from my little rented plane in absolutely awe and your AMAZING BOOK take me down the sad and angry road with a sign that says ALL THINGS MAY FALL and life itself is illusory. I worry about my own fall more than before and as I approach my 67th birthday. Your blog today, nonetheless, make me feel more alive and as my Mother used to say so often, "Gene is lucky". I'm lucky to know you reap the benefits of your informed heart and bright and curious mind.
    Be well dear friend...It will rain today, but your words will make this sunless anniversary less bleak and frightening.

    Your bud,

  2. Thank you for sharing. I would only ask, and this is a personal request, that the events of that day be referred to as the events of September 11th, rather than the short-hand, 911, or 9-11.

  3. I posted a link to last year's post which included photos my father took at WTC in about 1981. You may like them.

    My father loved the WTC, he was in awe of so many sights and places and pieces of history he saw in the US, The Smithsonian for example.

    Kae at:

    kae's bloodnut blog

  4. This story has been re-edited and updated for this day of remembrance 9/11/10.


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