Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Dinah memory of the World Trade Center. Post 9/11

Previously posted under Steel Work Begins on Freedom Tower Beams.

The World Trade Center and I go way back. Wall Street was my stomping grounds during the go-go 80's and I knew WTC well. By 2001 the firm I worked for, Salomon Brothers, had been acquired by Citigroup and was located at 7 WTC.

It was the third building to go on 9/11/01.

Fast forward to December of 2001: It was a cold, blustery, pretty day and the sun was shining brightly. It was a great day to be an American. I was taking the train into the city to tend to some business and go downtown to see what remained of some of my old haunts.

On the train ride in from Jersey there's a point where you come around a curve and the panorama of the Manhattan skyline spreads out before you in all it's glory. It looked so empty without the Twin Towers. It was like a kick in the gut. A feeling that only intensified on the way downtown in a cab driven by a guy named Achmed who dropped me off as close as he could to 'the site', as it was now being called.

The thing you noticed first was the acrid smell - a brassy smell that hung heavy in the air. The next thing you noticed was the dust, the powder fine microparticles of some mysterious, ash gray composition that covered each and every thing and carpeted the sidewalks. Finally you noticed the hushed demeanor of everyone around you. People were reverent, and when I say people I mean people of each and every stripe. It was like a pilgrimage and the mood of the people was in sharp contradiction to the sounds of hydraulic power tools, cranes and construction that emanated from 'the site' itself.

I watched a crane pick up a steel beam that was so twisted and mangled it looked like had been crumpled up like it was a paper clip. The crane lowered the beam onto one of the long line of flatbed 18 wheelers that had snarled traffic on the narrow bumpy downtown streets for blocks.

Traffic was so gnarly this 18-wheeler and I made the trip around Manhattan's tip at about the same pace. Me walking and the truck inching along. I followed the truck with it's load of this single steel beam all the way around Manhattan to the docks over by 55 Water Street. Another crane was situated there. The truck pulled up and the crane lifted the beam off the flatbed, swinging it gracefully onto a barge tethered at the dock. A tugboat guided the barge away from the dock and out into the East River, final destination Fresh Kills, Staten Island.

I'll never forget it.