I grew up on Long Island in the suburbs of New York City, and I was living in northern New Jersey in 2001. The World Trade Center was part of my skyline, part of my growing up, part of my life.
When I was a child, we went to see the massive holes in the ground where, someday, my dad promised, giant towers would rise.
When the towers were finished, we rode the super-fast, queasiness-inducing elevators to the top of Tower 2 and went out onto the observation deck and it was like you owned all of New York City -- not just Manhattan, but Brooklyn and Queens, Staten Island and Ellis Island and the Bronx, and all of the water and the ships and planes too. You could feel the gentle sway of the tower beneath you if it was at all windy -- and when you're up that high, it's often windy. You tell yourself that the engineers planned for this, that the suppleness of the building's spine is necessary, but it's still unnerving. It still sends a shiver of not-quite-fear through you.
In 1986, my friend Julie, right, visited from England and we took her to the top of the world. Literally.
That's the Statue of Liberty in the center of the photo.
You weren't supposed to, but at the inside observatory, I used to step right up next to the windows and look straight down. I can still feel the sickly swoop of my belly as the world dropped out from under my feet. Dark swift cars and bright yellow taxis the size of Matchbox toys flowed silently along the blacktop far below. They might have been in a movie; they were that disconnected from my reality.
Inside Two World Trade Center, as it was properly called, looking toward Brooklyn.
See that bar? I used to sneak under that to press up against the glass and look down.
My brother worked in Tower 1 for several years, and was there in 1993 when terrorists made their first attempt to destroy it by blowing up a van parked underneath. Still, I don't think any of us ever believed that these monuments to ingenuity and prosperity could fall.
And yet, they did.