Today is a somber day, a day of reflection. 15 years ago was a frozen moment in time like a snapshot, everyone one of us knows where we were, and what we were doing as the day’s events unfolded. Most of us knew people who lost their lives that day, or others by a quirk of fate that did not. We all lost something that day, some more than others.
I don’t want to talk about the day, or the people but rather about time and place. Buildings can be more than just buildings they can be reflections of who we are, when we live, and what is truly familiar to us. Most of us walk around day after day, staring ahead meandering the canyons of the city, going about our business day in and day out, without noticing the place around them. It is not until we face a radical, or sudden change that our eyes are opened.
When I was young one of my first memories, (certainly one that influence me to become and architect,) was driving into the city on the long Island Expressway watching the twin towers under construction, clad in the orange construction tarps. They amazed me. The grey landscape and then a bold orange mark on the skyline. Those towers in the skyline had become part of my world and reflected a constant, home. I had wonderful meals there, I measured them as part of a summer internship, I gazed across the vastness of America from its observatory floor, they were a fixture in my skyline. It was not until a month or so after they were gone that I realized how they had become integral to my world. Walking up to street level from the subway I emerged lost in a city that I had grown up with, and lived in. I could not get my bearings and was confused as I walked 4 blocks in the wrong direction. Looking up I realized they were gone and what I had done. The void in the city echoed through me…emptiness.
As I go in and out of the city today I see the new skyline unfolding. It is familiar in many ways, but it does not feel like it is home, with towers rise at ground zero, midtown and uptown. I guess they are a reflection of the time we are in now, and the place that is yet to be. But I gaze at the skyline, and still feel it is missing something. Maybe I will always see it that way, or maybe this new skyline will grow into the fabric of my mind filling the gap left by a bold mark that is no longer there.
I didn't grow up in NY (in NM) but the twin towers were the backdrop to my 20s and to my wedding (since divorced) photos from Governor's Island. They definitely were the anchor to my new home. I remember the first time I drove across the Whitestone Bridge after 9/11 and the shock I felt at how different the skyline looked. Though I am a transplant, I have been here for many more years than I lived elsewhere and though I miss the twin towers and all they represented (personally and otherwise), I hope people look at the Freedom Tower and the evolving skyline as representative of the steadfastness, compassion, and ingenuity of America. I send my wishes for peace and comfort to Welles' family. You raised one who is the best of us.