Fray's "Missing Pieces", September 19, 2001.

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Sense of Direction

So it's not something I guess I should say right now, but I never liked those towers. Their only purpose, I said, was to help orient oneself when getting out at an unfamiliar subway stop.

I worked in the Empire State Building until the beginning of this year. Right near the top. The Empire State was grand and stately and Art Deco, all things the World Trade Center was not. The view from our windows was southward, so it was dominated by the twin towers. I used to rail that they were disproportionate, horribly designed, just plain ugly.

I used to say that.


Tuesday was supposed to be the day I finally got a respite. I felt a cold coming on, and had just pulled an all-nighter Monday night on a project that I knew was almost completely pointless. But after all that work, I would finaly get to rest, I took a nice, long shower and drifted off to sleep around 6:30 Tuesday morning.

The radio went off at 9:00am. I hadn't remembered to turn it off. I don't remember silencing the alarm, but then again, when I've gotten less than three hours of sleep, I never do. It had done its job, though, and I was too awake to go back to bed, so I sauntered off towards the bathroom. On the way, I tapped the power button on the TV, which I have never, ever done before. Never. I've never turned the TV on in the morning. Never.

The TV warmed up, I saw a clear shot of the World Trade Center, with a tower burning. I figured there was a fire, I'd seen such shots before. Hell, the last time they had a minor fire we watched the news copters swoop and swirl from our office at the Empire State. Blase'. Old hat. Been there.

Then a plane hit the tower. Sleep-groggy mind says they're replaying whatever caused the fire. The two words I remember hearing from the local announcer who was describing the scene were "ANOTHER PLANE." I sat down on the sofa and watched. I stayed there for another 15 hours.


My mind keeps going back to what I said about the twin towers. In the proud tradition of most people who live in Manhattan, I never actually frequented the tourist attractions. I had been at the top a few months ago, and while I enjoyed the view, I was still disdainful. I sniffed that the architecture was lousy. The way the towers swayed in the wind was unseemly. They were a good fifty stories taller than their surroundings. Garish.

I still feel guilty about not loving the towers more. I ache for the people we lost, of course. But I feel like a traitor when I admit that I didn't love the World Trade Center when it was still here. I have often said that I love New York City like a friend, and now I feel like I had been quietly betraying my friend.

And now I want to take it back. I want to apologize, and say I'm sorry, and that the towers really were beautiful, and I want them to come right back because I didn't mean it when I said I didn't like them. I need them back, really, because it turns out that my statement was true ... without the twin towers, I feel completely disoriented.

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