The View From the Seventieth Floor



159 liberty st ny ny 10006

Neighborhood: Financial District

I used to gloat about it. Somebody would ask for my work mailing address and I’d reply slowly, evenly, Two-World-Trade-Center. And then pause a beat, just for effect – seventieth floor. Seven –zero. That’s right. There’d often be a comment, sometimes even a gentle, “wow.” My reply varied depending on circumstance or mood. Occasionally, however, I was dead honest. It’s a bit like working above the clouds. An angel’s view without the wings.

Twelve years of my adult working life were spent in the south tower. Funny, I never called it that before. In my mind it was just Tower Two. Or simply, number two. I started on the seventy-second floor, in an interior office. No view of my own. Then I could be in a cloud and not even know it. Next we were moved to seventy-one. A shift down but a shift up. Promotion? Not exactly. Better. A window office, facing north.

The island of Manhattan has as many facets as a diamond. And when the sun is setting early on a cold, clear winter night you can see the collective glow of its inhabitants’ souls. Poetic mush? God, I wish.

Hard to believe nobody got to see that sight this winter. Guess I can’t prove it. Certainly science would say it was only the reflection of our star on the buildings. Except that from my perch I’d watch the light spread like a golden blanket and let it humble me.

The move to the seventieth floor came a few years later. There were some promotions on that flight down, too, and so many changes. I turned thirty in that tower. I turned forty there. I divorced. I loved. I cried. And lastly, I got married, again. There. September 2, 2001, in Windows on the World.

For a while I lived in a south-facing office. The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the harbor, the rest of the world. Large ships would sail in and out languorously as I faced my computer and typed away. There were days where I didn’t look. Luckily, there were many more days that I did. Sunsets of purple and blue and crimson red. I think of the tens of thousands that passed that port. What would they have thought had those towers been there then?

There was a time I claimed to not like the towers. Ugly monoliths. No style. No comparison to the grand dames – the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings. But they grew on me, of course. In that slow way that simple elegance does when one ages and you laugh at what you thought was fashionable at twenty.

In the end (not that we knew it), I was moved and faced north once more. It was a bittersweet move across the floor. But the new office was beautiful, a fresh start. It coincided with my new relationship and seemed an all-around good harbinger. And I got to play angel again over my city of glittering souls.

Ten thousand. Six thousand. Three thousand. One. I knew one person who perished that day. A sweet-faced man named Thomas Swift who I can’t help picturing with a smile.

I was not there on September 11th. Instead I was in Italy, on my honeymoon. I can never know what my actions would have been. I know myself enough to know I would have followed somebody. The consequences of such following will forever be unknown.

On that day my view was much different than usual. Ancient temples stood before me, lasting thousands of years . . . while my tower could not surpass three decades. The modern world connected me to the horrors across the Atlantic. Television views shared by millions.

So in my view I was extraordinarily lucky. To have been there, and, ultimately, to not have been.

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