I had planned to write something else tonight – something quite a bit easier to think about and to write. However, I checked in on Rita’s blog and saw that she had posted a photo of the Twin Towers that her husband took on September 2, 2000, while they were on their honeymoon in New York City. She mentioned that they had intended to have dinner in the World Trade Center, but time did not permit it. They decided that they would have dinner in the Windows on the World “the next time” they would be in New York. That postponed dinner, which now can never be enjoyed, speaks volumes about what happened two years ago tomorrow.
I think it is safe to assume that virtually every American has a September 11th story to tell. Everyone vividly remembers where they were when they learned of the attacks and how they were affected by them on that day and in the following days.
However, I also think it is safe to assume that, even though thousands upon thousands of people have been to the Twin Towers during their existence, most Americans have never had the opportunity and the pleasure of having visited those magnificent buildings.
I am fortunate to have had the chance to visit the World Trade Center and to have had dinner in the Windows on the World restaurant. Little did I know that my evening there would, years later, provide me with a bit of haunting insight into how hellish it must have been for the restaurant staff and people eating breakfast in the Windows on the World on the morning of September 11, 2001.
What brought me to the restaurant in the early nineties was a company-sponsored dinner to celebrate the launch of a new product. Most of the people in our group resided within 50 miles of the World Trade Center (I live much closer), and yet most of us had never visited the place. This is not unusual for people who live around here. Indeed, to this day, I have never been to the top of the Empire State Building, even though I have lived within sight of it all my life.
We were taken on a chartered bus from New Jersey through the Holland Tunnel into downtown New York. The trip took only about twenty minutes, although it didn’t even seem to take that much time, as we were laughing and joking all the way. We were all looking forward to a splendid evening of first-class dining in the tallest building in the world’s greatest city.
As we exited the bus in front of the north tower, we certainly did not look like “locals,” because virtually every one of us speechlessly gazed at the enormity of the Towers. Anyone could have easily mistaken us for a group of tourists from some place like Nebraska (no offense to our Nebraskan friends). Photographs simply cannot fully convey the size and power of those buildings.
We took the ear-popping trip on the high-speed elevator up to the 107th floor, where the restaurant was located. As we got off the elevator, we were greeted by a member of the restaurant staff who led us to a private room where our cocktails and dinner were to be served. I distinctly recall the professionalism and courtesy of the restaurant’s staff.
Before dinner, we all took advantage of the opportunity to stand at the floor to ceiling windows and look down at New York City and across the Hudson River to New Jersey. It was breathtaking. Ironically, I recall thinking then that the only other way to see this wonderful view would be from an airplane. I was particularly taken by how one could actually feel the building sway ever-so-slightly in the wind. At first, it was a bit unnerving. I’m told that the building was designed to be flexible and to bend, up to a foot or so, in the wind. I had no idea that you could actually feel it.
I also remember wondering about what kind of special men it must have taken to climb around at that height on the steel skeleton of the building during its construction. I still wonder about that.
However, one thing I absolutely did not think about was what it would be like if this gargantuan tower was to cave in on itself in a matter of seconds. There was no reason to entertain such a ridiculous thought, for surely such a thing could never, ever happen.
Now I know differently. And now I find it difficult not to think about that which was unthinkable on that evening in the tallest building in the world’s greatest city.
May those who perished there rest in peace, and may those responsible for their deaths rot in hell.