It’s amazing how many people feel an emotional connection to the terrible events of September 11, even though they were not personally involved. I am no exception, as the following story shows.
In mid January, 2001 my husband Rob and I flew to New York (one of my favourite cities) to celebrate my 50th birthday. It was a magical time. There had been heavy snow the previous week, but on almost every day of our stay the city sparkled in winter sunshine. Warmly wrapped in blankets, we enjoyed a romantic horse and carriage ride through snowy Central Park. We also watched business clad New Yorkers skating at the Rockefeller Centre, a sight that completely captured my imagination.
On the recommendation of Rob’s cousin we booked my celebration lunch at the River Café, located beside Brooklyn Bridge. I was enjoying the indulgent Brooklyn Bridge Chocolate Dessert Platter when the head waiter walked over with a phone, ‘ Call for you from Australia Mrs Conolly.’ It was the lovely Barry! Afterwards we wandered around admiring the area’s historic brownstone buildings, some still decorated with their Christmas and New Year garlands. As evening fell we walked back to our Manhattan Hotel across Brooklyn Bridge.
When we returned to Sydney I wrote an article about the trip for the travel section of The Weekend Australian. It was published in June. After talking about the difficulties encountered during construction of the famous bridge I wrote;
It is worth remembering that when this bridge was completed in 1883, the 280 foot spire of Trinity Church was the tallest structure in the city. However, since the nineteen seventies, the 1,350 foot twin towers of the World Trade Centre have dominated, prompting some to suggest that standing on the building’s observation deck is the closest to heaven many New Yorkers will ever get.
This attempt at humour came back to haunt me when the Twin Towers were destroyed so soon afterwards. It was as though there was some horrible prophesy in my light-hearted comment. The article was accompanied by a photograph of a dazzling, neon lit skyline. Despite everything, that view is still very special:
My concluding paragraph read;
By now, the lights of the city were creating a fitting finale to my birthday. The poem ‘Skyline’ by Christopher Morley was written in the nineteen thirties. Its opening verse celebrates New York’s spectacular night sky;
Under what star was granted me
To live immersed where I can see
Her terrible tall majesty?
Who fated it
That I should squander youth and wit
To see her blaze and ride so high
On peacock sky?
I would like to conclude with another writer’s experience relating to September 11.
In the summer of 2001, US author Gary Bloomfield sent 25 proposals to New York based publishing houses. He was aware that multiple submissions were frowned on, but figured he would probably never hear from the majority of them. (Such is the lot of the writer!) Nevertheless he was surprised and disappointed when he did not receive a single response, either negative or positive.
In January 2002, Gary finally received a call from one of the publishers. It turned out that the company’s headquarters had been located close to the Twin Towers. Their building was evacuated and they had relocated to Connecticut. Much of their mail had been destroyed or contaminated during the disaster. It was only when they managed to retrieve surviving items that Gary’s submission was found and read. When he checked via MapQuest he discovered that all the companies he targeted had been in close proximity to the Twin Towers.
Somewhat ironically, his book, Duty, Honor, and Victory was about elite American athletes serving on the front line during World War II. It was published by Lyons Press, the sole publisher who contacted him. The book went on to receive the Benjamin Franklin award. It remains available on Amazon and has been described as ‘ Touching, memorable, and long overdue‘. Thanks for allowing me to share your story here Gary.
Despite the passing of the years, whenever I travel by ferry across Sydney Harbour I gaze at our own spectacular skyline and send up a silent prayer of thanks that we have not had to cope with such a dreadful loss of innocence.
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