It’s hard for me to forget the whole 9/11 personal anecdote thing, because I was sitting in a dentist’s chair when the assistant came in and said a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
A little discussion ensued about what kind of pilot would that be. Before anything more meaningful had been said, the assistant came in again and said another plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
The rest of the day was, well you know.
Nobody talks about this and I don’t know why it made such a big impression on me at the time and for some reason still does, but I was very struck by the incongruity of what a phenomenally beautiful day it was, both in New York City and further north and west, where I was. Weather-wise, it was just one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever seen: late summer, not too hot, cloudless sky, no pesky wind. One of those days that would otherwise prompt you to think fondly back on the summer you just had and fortify the mind for the hard slog ahead, as the days get shorter and colder and, especially where I was living, drearier.
I suppose no one talks about it because it doesn’t mean much. Just a random element of what is otherwise a horror story. To me I guess it just added to the surreal nature of the whole thing.
I had been to the World Trade Center once, sometime in 1992 or 1993. I was down there arguing a case in the 2nd Circuit. I had a few hours to kill before taking the plane going back to Rochester so I walked around the big city and eventually came to the twin towers. I went up to the top to catch the view, came back down and left.
And I have to tell you, because this is also kind of odd. Almost all the other great buildings of New York were massive, concrete or brick. But from ground level the towers looked kind of flimsy. I remember distinctly thinking that at the time. You could never imagine the Empire State Building being destroyed, but there was something about the towers. They looked out of place. They looked comparatively temporary. Like they didn’t weigh enough. Almost like if you were inclined that way, like a terrorist or something, it was a temptation.
The towers were also architecturally very uninteresting. New York City has many skyscrapers and most of them are fascinating, somewhat awe-inspiring, but I didn’t have that impression of the towers at all. They looked like they were made of plastic with a few steel beams thrown in so they wouldn’t tip over. Straight up and down, no deviation, no variation, every 50 feet just a repeat of the previous 50 feet. Nothing interesting to look at, just these two large vertical extensions, notable only for how far up they went. And that there were two of them, more or less side by side.
I’m sure there’s no architectural or engineering validity to these impressions but it does make you wonder: if you erect the tallest buildings in the world and they look cheap and breakable, maybe you’re just tempting some psychopath to break them.