Friday, September 10, 2010



9 minutes or 9 years later… doesn't matter. It won't matter in 20 or 40 years either -- everyone will still be able to tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when the World Trade Center towers fell.

In the summer of 1976, my father took this photograph out of the glass-walled crown of the Statue of Liberty in New York.

World Trade Center
America's Bicentennial Year

I look at my Dad's snapshot and I feel the weight of the years, the changes. It was a happy time for us as a family, and an interesting time for the country. We led the way. No one had heard of AIDS... and hello, war in the Middle East? We didn't even have a war on drugs yet. I saw Disney World for the first time on that trip, got my first glimpse of NASA rockets, and if I wanted to feel a sense of magic in life, I didn't really have to look much further than Arthur Fonzarelli.

Idyllic? Certainly not. I'm not even suggesting it was remotely tranquil. A president had been forced to resign, the Cold War was heating up, my parents were snarling about gasoline prices, a recession loomed, and for the first time in my childhood, I started hearing the term "gang warfare."

World Trade Center
Same day at the United Nations.
Different time, different world.

While I think of those days as less cynical or dangerous, I'd hate to turn into one of those tiresome middle-agers who privately thinks: "My childhood was better than anyone who is unlucky enough to be a child today" because I didn't understand what problems existed across the Earth at large.

Really, when we compare eras with older eyes, we are not appreciating some elevated sense of majestic national innocence; we're just idealizing our own.

I couldn't have known, staring out Lady Liberty's crown, that those twin buildings would violently crumble and change my view of the world. I can only take comfort in the sense that many peoples' view of the world changed that day.

For me, the date September 11th has a secondary remembrance now. Two years ago today, I was part of the evacuation of Galveston before Hurricane Ike devastated the island. Ever seen 56,000 people try to get across one bridge? This day is just filled with things I hope none of us ever see again.