Tag Archives: Twin Towers

My 9/11 …

World Trade Center, view from New Jersey

Twenty years has passed in the blink of an eye since the events of September 11, 2001, and yet we also have all of the extraordinary moments that we have lived through year in and year out since then.

I have raised a child, completed my BA and MA, published a book, started and retired from a 15 year successful career with the City of New York, nine plus years of which were spent with the special people of the NYC Fire Department in the post-9/11 culture of camaraderie and pain that is unique to the FDNY.

In that latter realm, I have had the honor of christening the fireboat Three Forty Three, a 120 foot vessel that graces New York Harbor having been named to honor the men and women of the Department who lost their lives in the horrific events of 9/11.

Each of us who survived the events of that day has our own stories of what has happened to us over these past twenty years.

We also never forget where we were and what we were doing on that beautiful Tuesday morning.

Yet we move forward, feeling the holes in the sky as deep scars on our collective psyche, and for many of us when looking at the reconfigured landscape of towering buildings, no longer seeing it as a symbol of home.

For New Yorkers, in my case a multi-generational denizen of the City, 9/11 carries special resonance and pain. Most of us knew someone who perished or in playing the six degrees of separation game someone who knew someone and so one. For some of us the loss remains unbearable and still we persevere.

I remember Peter “Pete” Mardikian.

He was 29.

He had been married for just six weeks–a wedding I’d been invited to but couldn’t attend in his wife, Corine’s hometown in Ohio.

Pete worked for me for a while at Imagine Software before a promotion that saw him working for one of the partners, Scott Sherman. We’d spent a great time in London together, all of us ensuring our software product didn’t crash and burn at the turn of the New Year on January 1, 1999.

Le Meridien Hotel Bar, Piccadilly, London

Along with others of our colleagues, Stephen Klein, Karen Rose, and Mark Lipsits among them, we’d meet up at the end of our long work days and sit up talking about the meaning of life until well past midnight at the bar of the Le Meridien Hotel off Piccadilly Square. As this was long before the days of smart phones and Instagram feeds, there are no photos to smile at documenting our moments together nor memes captured from Scott’s brilliant stories that had us reeling with laughter nor our wonderment at Stephen’s instance that we enter “drift time.”

So those remembrances have to live inside. In our collective hearts. In how we laugh about that time at the bar on the infrequent moments we meet up or pound out notes on Facebook.

But it’s without Pete.

Without his special brand of magic and sweetness. Without him as a 49 year old, perhaps a father a couple of times over, regaling us with the firsts of those kinds of experiences: first birthday, first day of kindergarten, first white belt ceremony … and so on.

At the 9:05 am moment in the 9/11 Timeline records, it is noted that Peter Mardikian called his wife on one of the few working phones. He was on the 106th Floor of the North Tower attending the Risk Waters Group Conference at Windows on the World. One other of our colleagues, Andrew Fisher, 42, also perished, and a third colleague in attendance left mere moments before the first plane hit the towers to go back to the office to pick up something.

Pete’s funeral at the St. Vartan Cathedral an Armenian Church on 34th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan created levels of pain I did not think were possible.

All of us, his family, his colleagues, his friends were crushed beyond measure. We saw in Cori a figure of strength and fortitude we did not think possible and in our own grief looked to her to model how to endure his loss.

I spent most of my time with Scott. Both of us were 47 years of age. We were bereft at the notion that someone with so much left of his life could be lost. We felt like helpless parents with inconsolable grief at the notion that our bright, brilliant boy with a limitless future had perished so horribly.

He was our Petey. Our pal. And in those moments of pain we had to reconcile what life meant. How we could go forward. How we could separate our anger and the sense that life was not worth living in the presence of such horror. How to navigate those moments to get to the pivotal point where we were choosing to live. To experience grief as it is and then go on to live life as best we could.

Any loss is grievous. The loss of 2,977 in one day was incalculable for New Yorkers and incalculable still as we viscerally reconsider how it unfolded and the many permutations that have affected our world in the aftermath of 9/11. Those memories form indelible pictures that hit the senses in waves that strip us bare again. Causing that gulping feeling of a gut punch one never fully recovers from.

All we can do is continue to live our best lives if not for ourselves then for the those we lost.

May the memory of those who perished be for a blessing.

19 Years ago today

19 years on …

The World Trade Center was my point of reference from the first time I spied the towers in the fog looking south on Sullivan at the corner of Bleecker in Greenwich Village.  I was with my father, with whom I used to roam the City on our occasional Sunday’s together. The towers had been on our radar all through its construction. We’d pass by the towers first as a hole in the ground and then as partially constructed buildings as we peered up from under the old West Side Highway on one of our jaunts through the docks on our way to Battery Park.

That night, with the windows illuminated in shrouded light felt magical and has been a point in time I have always treasured.

When I gaze on the City now, I feel the holes in the sky as a huge ache in my heart.

It happens whether I am looking across from the vantage point of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade or most recently from the vantage point of the Rockaway Ferry looking across towards Manhattan just past the Marine Park Bridge.

Our nation, our citizenry, our sense of who we are as a people have undergone many, many transformations since the ill-fated morning of September 11, 2001. Some have been for the good, but much, as now, has been fraught with conflict, fear, dislocation, and the kind of damage that can take generations, if ever, to heal.

I can only offer my fervent hope that we will persevere to better days.

18 Years On

18 Years on …

 

I find that extraordinary.

My daughter went from having her first week of Pre-school to being a junior in College.

 

And our world

So much meaner

With boots on the ground and lives shattered and destroyed

For what?

I can’t remember why

Just the pain of the hole in the sky.

 

The hole in the sky

Seventeen years today…

I chose to remember joy, even though my heart aches for the losses.

For the hole in the sky.

For the people I mourn.

For an America that was less fractured by revenge, less intent on unraveling progress, less mean in its pursuit of something tangible that has seemingly been lost.

I prefer to remember joy and wonder …

I prefer to remember joy and wonder …

Philippe Petite (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in TriStar Pictures' THE WALK.

I work downtown again.

The first time since the summer of 2001.

WWcentreMy office was at the Woolworth Building then and the Towers were my backyard. A place I’d run to to catch the subway, dart into a Children’s Place to pick up little things for my daughter, or to peruse the aisles at Borders Bookstore.

126135735535_338b65ceaf_o.0Early that summer, I took my team to lunch at Windows on the World at the top of the North Tower (Building One).

It was a languid lunch, with one of our number who’d moved on coming in to meet with us. We sat by a window looking east towards Brooklyn, marveling at the view, the company, and the chance to take a break during the day.

IMG_1286revisedI think of this because when I walk along Fulton Street heading to or from my new office on Gold Street, I am always surprised by the absence of the Twin Towers.

Perhaps I’ll get used to it one day and even catch site of it without a sharp intake of breath as a measurement of the loss I still feel.

But even if each and every sight of it for the rest of my life causes a momentary pause, I’ll also always remember the joy and wonder of Phillipe Petit walking between the Towers on his tight rope.

That and my lunch with the Imagine crew sustains me when I otherwise expect to see the view that never ceased to captivate me–nor burn an ember in my heart by its absence.

13 years …

13 years …

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The Twin Towers in July 1983, with New Yorkers taking in the sun on the beach created by the WTC landfill.                      Photo by Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

Sometimes I just can’t breathe if I think about it for too long.

Not only is it the towers, but in remembering the landscape when it was possible to walk on the landfill beach at the edge of the Hudson where it felt more like an end of the world place than a city. A landscape inspired by Fellini, in a New York that still had roughened edges with none of the cleanliness of our current patina of Disneyesque public spaces.

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Still from Frederico Fellini’s 8-1/2

Yes. Life moves along. But for some of us the Twin Towers still informs out sense of who we are in a world that seems to have become that much meaner in the void of their absence.

As always, I choose peace.

 

Ten years on …

Ten years on …

My first memory of the Twin Towers was of watching their construction caught in snippets while walking downtown.  It wasn’t  until construction was completed in April of 1973 that the buildings became something special to me.

I was walking in the village on a foggy evening.  One of those late spring nights with a warm dusting of rain that permeated the air with hints of the summer to come.  Walking down Bleecker Street crossing Sullivan I happend to look south and literally did a dead stop as I took in the magnificence of the two towers alight with a soft glow as they rose up into the mist.  There was something about the image of these two remarkable modern edifices set against the low buildings of the Village that created an indelible picture in my mind; one that I sought out over the years standing on that same spot to reclaim some of the magic of that first vision.

And those buildings did have magic.  The kind of magic that brought Philippe Petit all the way from France to walk between the towers if for no other reason than because they were they.

They were there — a seeming touchstone to my New Yorkness; to the New York I had created for myself all those years ago, standing on Sullivan Street at the threshold to my adulthood.

The towers stood there when I saw them from my grandmother’s kitchen window in Far Rockaway or every time I flew into Kennedy airport or walked across the Brooklyn Bridge or the day I shot several rolls of film photographing them, or the days I’d go to grab a sandwich there after I started working at the Woolworth Building.  All are memories that live as separate pictures in my mind.  Of seeing the buildings in the distance or as enormous edifices that seemed to rise forever as I stood at their edges staring up.

My last vision of them was seeing them on fire through my daughter’s window. And then they simply disappeared in clouds of terrible smoke and ash that lingered for months in our mouths and in our clothing.  A soot and smell that sickened us and killed our hearts.

That ash contained all of our memories and like a sacred fire, the tiny fragments of all of those lives that had been lost.

I truly can’t look at downtown without feeling the hole in the sky.  Even ten years on, I ache for those buildings as a lover who mourns the loss of an old dear friend, only in this case I also feel the loss of friends, colleagues and friends of friends who perished.  I feel the special pain that all New Yorkers feel for the people who died trying to help others escape.  That too is a hole that will never really heal — especially since day by day, those who came to help get sicker and sicker.

Perhaps I reserve the biggest hole in my heart for the lose of the America I loved — we weren’t quite as mean and angry then, and didn’t carry the outward signs of terrible vengeance.  Maybe we always did harbor a streak of Old Testament wrathfulness, but it just didn’t seem as apparent.  I’m sorry for that loss too.

My New Yorkness has had to adjust itself to the new skyline — just as my Americanness has had to adjust to endless war, Guantanamo Bay, financial meltdowns and the realities of the Tea Party.  None sit easily with me, but ever the optimist, I hope for a better day.

Ten years on, I admit to getting on with things and not keeping the memories as fresh wounds that endlessly bleed, still, if I happen to watch a movie from the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s, I feel an incredible ache as I catch sight of their magnificence once more.