Like so many others, I spent those first days and hours glued to the television, watching in rapt horror, as events were replayed dozens of times, from dozens of different angles. I attended a couple of the public memorials in my own city, a thousand miles away from the epicenters of events.
I watched flags sprout from every imaginable edifice, plus a few that were questionable. Around here, depth of your religious patriotism was -and still is- measured by the size of the magnetic flag on your oversized SUV, or the number of them waving from windows, antennae, or in one case, from a Christmas tree stand installed in the back of a dually pickup.
I chose the subtler route. I ordered a little window cling with the flag, and the words Stand Tall on it, with the two ls depicted as the Twin Towers. I thought Id remove it at the anniversary, but it remains, with my winged sundisk and another little US flag in the other corner of my cars rear window.
I have one online acquaintance that worked at the World Trade Center- she overslept that day. All her colleagues escaped. On my online newsgroups, headcounts were taken, stories were exchanged, horror and grief expressed. As the year wore on, much of that horror and grief was displaced by a growing cynicism about the event and its overhype. If there was a way to tie in the EventsOfSeptemberEleventh into something, the press found it. Yes, we said it as one word. We dreaded the anniversary. All I watched on That Day was the end of the 9/11 documentary on CBS. I dont have cable, so I didnt get to wallow in the glurgefest that was promised.
But, during the course of this past year, and probably for a very long time to come, I was in mourning. Not for anyone I knew, but for a place. No, not a place, a Presence. Those two tall, too tall, Twin Towers, those titanic goalposts that invited the eye and the heart to partake in the best and the worst that was America. They were more than just buildings- they had Presence, that indescribable ensoulment that certain places, mountains, trees, and yes, even buildings have. The Shintos would call it Kami, their word for spiritual Presence.
And the Twins symbolized what was the best and the worst about this country- that Space-Age, can-do modernism that permitted people to get to the moon with pencils and slide rules, that feat of engineering and innovation that is uniquely ours, the bombast and bad taste (to their critics), the adolescent cheekiness of building the biggest damn treehouse in the jungle. There they stood, stark, yet elegant, plain, but colorful, reflecting the many moods of the skies around them, and adding a few of their own. You couldnt help but admire them, poking out of the skyline like a big Roman numeral two, saying, Look at us! We dare you not to!
They had a Presence, a soul of their own, a pair of personalities that could not be ignored. I never had the opportunity to make their acquaintance in person- sadly, the closest I got to these twin titans was six miles. But even from that distance, in silhouette on a hazy day, their Presence was imposing. If I had known then what I know now, I would have walked those six miles to see them. I will always regret that.
Even before That Day, I kept up with them. I think that started as a young teen, when I read about their construction in science class in middle and junior high school. Ive always liked interesting geeky stuff like engineering tall buildings, and these towers seemed to be a big challenge. I remember reading about how they had to re -plan their physical placement because wind tunnel tests showed them shaking apart if they were too close together.
I was in England in 93 when the first attempt to destroy them happened. I watched people with soot on their faces streaming out in the snow, and people leaning out the narrow broken windows gasping for air. My gut told me that this wasnt going to be the last time I would see these sights. My two Manhattan buddies had been transformed from Trade Towers to targets, and it was only a matter of time before the other shoe dropped.
The stab I felt in my heart when I found out they'd been hit stayed with me through their agonizing final hour. When they crumbled into their component dust and steel, I grieved for their loss. It was truly an end of an era. They were gone forever.
But something troubled me. I decided to get to know the Twin Towers better, because something was nagging me to do so. Their demise was concurrent with their Saturns Return, measured by their time of tenancy- 28 years. This saddened me- it was the prime of their lives. I scoured the Net for articles about them from before the Eleventh, and came up with a treasure trove of pictures, stories, anecdotes, articles, arguments, and other little treasures. I found pictures of them from all sorts of angles, in all sorts of weather and lighting, reflecting their liveliness and Presence. In my wanderings, it was apparent that many other people saw the Twin Towers in much the same way I did- as Presences in their own right, with their own personalities, moods, and attitudes. They had two faces, it seemed- the professionally corporate, and the quietly spiritual. They were at the same time workplaces, and sacred spaces. They absorbed these apparent opposites as handily as they absorbed the winds that constantly rocked them around, managing somehow to be all things to all people, and yet also themselves. It suddenly hit me that they were murdered too- as coldly and hatefully as the thousands who perished in and around them. The City had lost more than valuable real estate- they had also lost their Guardians, their Sentinels, their Dawn Singers and Lightning Catchers. The Presences who inhabited the buildings were as immense and beautiful and inspiring as the Towers themselves, and now, they were gone- like the souls who inhabited their lofty offices.
I was not the only person to note this. Even their structural engineer, Leslie Robertson, who by his trade has to be practical and rational, said of his creations, "It just isn't possible for me to take the posture that the towers were only buildings . . . that these material things are not worthy of grieving."
Another writer on one of my newsgroups put it more succinctly: "I am mourning the buildings. I am mourning and grieving and gnashing the loss of the skyline of Manhattan Island. I miss those damn skyscrapers more than I miss any relative I have ever lost They are as sacred as any temple or cathedral, as magnificent a creation as the Grand Canyon or Victoria Falls. They were built by man as a symbol of the mind, of ability and creativity and sheer will overcoming so many obstacles, including the pettiness and narrowness of other men..."
It occurred to me that the grieving and horrified survivors, clothes ragged and covered with concrete dust, reflected the depictions of mourners on the walls of Egyptian tombs- covered in dust, clothes torn, tear tracks down their cheeks. An irony, since one of their creators boasted that the Twin Towers were the biggest construction project since the Pyramids.
They were incredible creations and awesome Presences. We will never see their like again.
I wish to collect stories and photos about life in and around the Twin Towers. I want to learn about their quirks, their moods, their Stupid Tower Tricks, how you and other people related to them- both personally and professionally. Could you hear their columns creaking in the wind? Did they have nicknames? Were they your compass? Were they your destination of choice to show out of town visitors? Even if you arent a local, what were your thoughts about the Twin Towers? Did they leave a WTC-sized hole in your heart? Do you want to see them rebuilt? Were they more to you than just towers? I am especially interested in stories from the Magickal, Spiritual, Metaphysical and Pagan/Wiccan/Shamanic point of view. If I get enough responses, I will create a page with these stories- poems and fiction will also be considered. In this small way, perhaps the memory of this place, and its inhabitants, will find some semblance of peace. You may contact me at sunfell(at)aristotle.net. Please contact me before emailing photos, especially.
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