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Tuesday, 09 February 2010

Humpty Dumpty

By Shirley Karnes

Once, not very long ago, there were two tall buildings standing next to each other, dominating the skyline of New York City. I could see them as I crossed the bridge that took me into Long Island on my way from Poughkeepsie. I could see them from my eighteenth floor apartment window where I lived in Manhattan. And they greeted me as I sailed into the harbor after a cruise.

When I had a visitor from upstate in 1973, we went to see these buildings. One of them had an observation deck where a roof might be. We entered a large elevator car with a group of other people and were slowly transported to the 103rd floor. Stepping out into the open space was like emerging into another world, where endless vistas greeted our eyes.

There was a barrier about twelve feet from the edge. In every direction the view was indescribably spectacular. Looking west, over the Atlantic, it seemed we could see the curve of the earth as it dipped into the horizon.

We walked around and talked to other visitors, many of them touring from other countries. None of us could find the words to express the wonder at the grand accomplishment of those who built these towers, that seemed to strive to reach the heavens. We stayed until the sun began to go down.

I grew up in New York City and even as a child was taken to see all the latest tall buildings. For a long time the Woolworth was famous until the Chrysler building was built, and finally the Empire State, in the early 1930s. I visited a cousin whose office was on the 63rd floor of the Empire State, and I never thought I would go higher than that. Now the city is densely packed with extremely tall buildings.

No one else I know has visited that marvelous open deck. When the towers fell, apart from the horrific human tragedies, I had a personal sense of sadness at their death. I think the rush to replace them was almost obscene. I would rather have seen the space left open until a longer mourning period had passed and tears were not as readily shed. That may still be a long way off.

The experience of that day will remain a vivid memory as I grow old. The twin towers were simple and pure in design, displaying strength as they stood as sentinels over the city. The new age architectural marvels planned in their place will not equal their dignity. What a shame! As the old nursery rhyme goes, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not put Humpty Dumpty together again.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


You've written this story from your heart and you've touched mine.
Thank you.

I too have my memories of those spectacular twin towers - two are most vivid. One is enjoying a magical dinner at Windows of the World with the man I was about to marry, and did. The second several days after 9/11, driving from Poughkeepsie to River Edge, New Jersey when I hit that place on Route 17 where the NYC skyline comes briefly into view - and they were gone. Just gone. It felt like my chest exploded.

I was fortunate enough to have been on the observation deck you talked about. The thing that amazed me was looking down on small planes flying below us.

No one will forget the horror of seeing those planes fly into the towers. It is seared in the memory of all of us.

I suppose when most of us think about writing nostalgia, we consider the distant past. Shirley's poignant essay shows that it can be as recent as 2001.

Beautiful story Shirley and I love the title. You've made a building come alive.

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