Friday, September 9, 2011

Top of the World

I would imagine everyone remembers where they were when the World Trade Center Twin Towers were hit on September 11, 2001. It's kind of like the moment when you heard President Kennedy was shot or when Pearl Harbor was bombed. It is a defining moment in our lives when tragedy engulfs a nation.

I was sitting in my office when someone came in and told me to turn on the TV because a plane had flown into one of the twin towers in New York City and the building was burning. It was an awful sight and people started gathering around the TV in shock. We watched as the second plane appeared on the TV screen and slammed into the other tower. It was shocking to realize what we thought at first was a terrible accident was now a deliberate attack. It was hard to comprehend what we were seeing on TV.

I was in New York City with friends back in the early 1980's. We went to the World Trade Center. We wanted to eat at the Windows of the World Restaurant located in the North Tower but we were not adequately dressed. We decided to take the elevator to the indoor observation deck on the 107th floor of the South Tower. It took over 3 minutes to reach the 107th floor. I am not sure I would get on that elevator today. I have been stuck on an elevator numerous times to the extent that I will never get on an elevator with more than 4 people in it at any one time. But that is a story for another time.  You could feel the speed of the elevator as it rocked back and forth speeding non-stop to the 107th floor.

It was worth the trip. Do you get a tingling feeling in your lower extremities when you are very high up and are looking over the edge to whatever is below you?  What a sight! The observation area was floor to ceiling glass. There were drawings on the glass windows highlighting the New York skyline. But the exhilarating lifetime experience was yet to come.

We rode the escalators up this kind of dark cavernous space which was windy and went outside to the outdoor viewing platform on the roof of the South Tower. The South Tower rooftop observation area was at the 110th floor, at a height of 1,377 feet. It was a clear day and you could see 50 miles away. There was a fence on the roof with the viewing platform in the middle of the roof. We stood outside on the roof of the tallest building in the world. It was an experience of a lifetime. It took my breath away. The accessibility of such a thing seems so unreal today.

I remember how windy it was out there on the top. I remember seeing helicopters flying in the spaces between the buildings below us. I remember the exhilarating feeling of being out in the open, high in the sky, on the top of one of the Twin Towers.

The South Tower, where I stood on the roof that beautiful day, collapsed after burning for 56 minutes on September 11, 2001. A half hour later, the North Tower collapsed. I remember those twin towers reaching high in sky and the feeling of being on top of the world. I remember looking down and how far it was to the streets below.

I still shudder with horror at the thought of those very desperate people deciding to jump instead of facing the fate of burning to death high in the sky. I cannot imagine the horror of the people sitting at their desks and seeing a huge jet plane coming right for their building. I cannot imagine the horror of realizing that any escape was cut off below.

Ten years later when I look at pictures of those two buildings, I remember standing on the roof of the tower without the antennae.  I realize how different our world is today from what it was in the 80's when we had free access to go to the top of the world. A time when we feared no one and had the freedom and accessibility to experience standing on the 110th floor of the World Trade Center South Tower.

I mourn all those people who lost their lives that day in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania and feel sorrow for the family members who lost their loved ones.

What a wonderful memory marred by such ugliness, hatred, heartache and tragedy. Terror visited our nation that day in September 2001 and nothing is the same.

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