World Trade Center Memorial
Even though I grew up a half hour outside Manhattan, I (shamefully) didn’t really know where the World Trade Center was. I never ventured below Chinatown. Years later I realized all I had to do was look up and that was the guiding symbol pointing me south, an obvious landmark I used to gather my bearings after emerging from the depths of the underground subway.
My clearest memory of the World Trade Center is the elevator. Particularly the one leading up to Windows on the World, taking me specifically to a bar known as the Greatest Bar on Earth, on the 107th floor. The elevator was the size of my room on the Upper West Side. My friend Marjorie, with whom I always went to Windows, and I would discuss how to arrange bedroom furniture around the elevator.
Other than the elevator size, the company with us on the rides were always was an experience. Many of the passengers donned name tags, usually out-of-towners in for their first Twin Towers experience. They didn’t just stare at the floor numbers lighting up. They gasped as the elevator took off. Riding to the top of the city took a New York minute. And as everyone poured out of the elevators to the top of the building, discussion about the incredible elevator speed always followed, maybe with a comment about someone’s stomach being left down below as the elevator shot upwards. And then they would all ooh and aah at the magnificent view, usually a festive sunset over the harbor. New Yorkers hustling about during rush hour disappeared far below, and the vast maze of Manhattan shone golden from the setting sun, in the same way the immigrants imagined golden streets as their boat approached the Statue of Liberty, also visible from our table. We would sit and sip wine and munch sushi while the city darkened around us from pink to orange to purple to navy, specks of light flicking on the city like a Christmas tree.
The first time I visited Windows on the World was in 1999, with Marjorie, to deliver pamphlets for our law office who was participating in some conference there. As we stepped off the elevator, we were greeted by a vision of white. Tall white walls, tall white glass, white everywhere. Where were the alleged windows as indicated in the name, Windows on the World? Turned out they shielded us from the white puff clouds outside, so thick I was led to believe the windows were sheets of white glass. I felt like I was either in heaven or on a misty soap opera. Even if I saw nothing that day, I remember the strange swirling sensation of the clouds mixing white with white, and how within two minutes I could rise from several levels underground on the subway all the way up to the top of the world.
Today, all that’s left are two dark stone squares that mark the footprints where these magnificent buildings once stood, a memorial to those who died on 9/11/01. You can touch the names of the deceased, who are forever embedded into the ghosts of the towers that once stood there. I found the name of a high school classmate and old friend, Peter Alderman, who died while attending a conference at the top of one tower. His family created the Peter C. Alderman Foundation, dedicated to helping victims of terrorism heal emotionally. Peter was a genuine, kind, light-hearted and jovial individual everyone liked. I like to think that Peter rode the elevator to the top of the world that day, and stayed there.
Peter’s name on the North Tower memorial