FIRST PERSON | The morning of September eleven was one of those days that New Yorkers call Velvet Days: clear blue sky without a cloud and the air so fresh it seemed to shimmer…and then it all ended. So much has been said and written about the towers falling, even movies have shown it over and over but for someone who could see that famous skyline every day from the New Jersey side of the Hudson, it will never be the same.
I have lived in Jersey City since 1986 and traveled in and out of Manhattan by the PATH train. It would take seven minutes from Jersey City to the World Trade Center PATH station and before 9/11 I, along with crowds of other New Jerseyans, would spill out of the train doors, swarm up the long escalators to the main floor and out into the day. We’d survived the bombing of the nineties and by 2001, nobody bothered to look over their shoulders anymore. During the day, lower Manhattan was filled with the fast talkers from Wall Street, street vendors with their carts, women in suits, those of us who came over from Jersey and tourists crowding the streets around the Twin Towers. We New Jersey-ites went into the City, lived our day and went home: through the big glass doors, down the long escalators and onto the PATH trains to Hoboken, Jersey City or Newark.
My sister, a long time New Yorker, told me that The World Trade Towers had never been really popular. When they were completed in the 1970s, nobody wanted to work in” those boring buildings” so Manhattan located all their city workers there. People thought they were ugly: too tall, too straight, but I loved them. I loved being inside them looking down and I love being outside of them looking up..and up. There was a coffee shop one floor up from the platforms. I’d stop there for coffee and a cigarette and sit at the counter, surrounded by the denizens of the City. Outside the ladies room I made phone calls on one of the phones that lined the walls. Eventually, Wall Street moved their back offices and bond traders to the Towers and the city workers moved elsewhere. The summer before the towers fell, my husband and I would go to Liberty State Park in the late afternoons. The Park sprawls along the Hudson River and faces lower Manhattan. There was an outside bar on the canal called the Light Ship. It was on a barge and, of course, attached to an old Light Ship that had ended up in Liberty Landing Marina. We would sit over glasses of wine and watch as the setting sun turned the Towers pink and, one after another, the lights going on one floor after another; then downtown Manhattan would belong to the people who lived in Battery Park City.
Nobody looks over their shoulders anymore. The new One World Trade Center tower rises into the Manhattan sky and the PATH trains are going in and out of World Trade Center, again. During the day, lower Manhattan is filled with the fast talkers from Wall Street, street vendors with their carts, women in suits, those of us who come over from Jersey crowding the streets around that new elegant tower. Tourists visit the 9/11 Memorial, lightly touching the names etched into the sides of the North Pool. People still live in Battery Park City and life goes on, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing those two great World Trade Towers, straight and tall, that turned pink in the sunset and the lights that would go on one floor after another when the sun went down.