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Gone, But Not Forgotten

They’re gone. And a little over a month after the fact, it is still hard to believe that the once-proud twin towers of the World Trade Center are a still-smoldering heap of rusting girders and powdered concrete. They’re gone- gone forever. They've left a World Trade Center-sized hole in my heart and soul.

It seems strange for me to mourn the loss of a place I’ve only seen twice. I am not a New Yorker- my own city is a thousand miles west. And around here,  New York City is usually the punchline of local jokes and salsa ads. Why do I care about a couple of towers filled with people I never knew in a city that is the antithesis of the South?

Maybe it’s because it’s America’s city and America's towers- which proudly flaunted the fact that they were 'all that'. And that distant skyline is as familiar to me as the more modest towers of my own city. It is both the El Dorado and the Jerusalem of the 21st Century- that ‘alabaster city’ ‘undimmed by human tears’ sung about in the second verse of America the Beautiful. Wonder what will happen to that verse? It made the usually stoic Dan Rather cry on the air. I joined him.

I miss those two towers. Everything about them was purely American- from their oversized presence and untouchable attitude to the various stunts people pulled with them. Guys parachuting from the top, or suction-cupping up the side. People stringing laundry and tight ropes and Spiderman webs between them. Logo-makers incorporating them into TV station logos, fire department badges, liquor ads and movie titles. People are probably tattooing their images onto their skins.

I liked the way the Woolworth building cheekily posed between them on some postcards, and how others used visual stunts like people leaning against them, reaching out to pluck them, or adding an upraised middle finger ‘tower’ to the skyline. Pure American, definitely New York- no place else in the world could get away with that. And now   they’re gone forever.

I regret not waiting for the Observation Deck to open the one and only time I visited Manhattan. It would have been fun to have actually gone inside, ridden the elevators to the top, and leaned my head against the chill glass, looking at the toy city below and listening to the towers talking to themselves. I might have bought a souvenir or two- some post cards, or a salt and pepper set, or even a snow globe. I would have definitely gotten a shotglass, since I collect them. An acquaintance who worked there (and who overslept on that fateful day) told me that the tower she worked in constantly creaked and muttered and groaned, and that when the winds were high, only the central elevators were run, and at half speed. A quarter mile high- the mind boggles.

Yes, they’re gone, but they refuse to be forgotten. It angers me that Hollywood is swiftly editing them out of new movies and TV shows. Do they think that’ll ease the pain of their loss? It makes it worse, in a way.

The Trade Towers refuse to go gently into that good night. They are prominent images on many movie posters- insinuating themselves into the scene like a pair of rambunctious teens in the background of a live TV news shot. Ghostbusters. Men In Black. Little Nicky. Superman II. Peeking out from under a sticker on "Rumble in the Bronx", the Dipsy-esque antenna of Tower One like an exclamation point. "We’re Here!" they seem to say. "Look!" They are the "H" in "Manhattan", the "11" on the WPIX logo. They’re proudly featured on the patches of the NYFD. I wonder what will become of that design?

I have a postcard of the Manhattan skyline that I picked up in my local Kroger. It shows the famous skyline at sunset, with the buildings glowing molten orange-gold as they reflect the light of the western sun. The beveled lines down the corners of the Trade Towers gleam brightly, and the Woolworth building is framed between them. This is how I choose to remember them.

And I will miss them.

Sunfell, October 14, 2001


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