My jaw hung open at the great fortune that we were on this exact flight pattern on our descent, circling Manhattan prior to landing that evening. Overwhelmed by an intense sense of wonder, I held up my tiny film camera and snapped this sunset photo from my airplane window. It was the year 2000. I don’t remember the exact timing, but looking at the angle of the sun I’m guessing it would have been July.
I loved how the sun highlighted one of the cross-town streets, how it marked one kind of symmetry in the skyline. But as an architecture student, it was another symmetry that truly fascinated me: that the depth of bedrock below Manhattan was reflected upwards in corresponding undulations — where it was safest to build deepest foundations for the tallest skyscrapers — rising at the southern tip of Manhattan with the Trade Center, then again at the Empire State Building.
Towers soaring up to highlight where the solid rock reaches down.
A magnificent city skyline. Symbolizing a triumph of human engineering and force of will. A brilliant marriage of natural phenomena, science and indomitable human spirit.
I think of symmetry again looking at this photo today, but its’ a different kind. Actually, it’s the asymmetry. I see now, in that darkness creeping from the left, that there were foreshadows even then of a world out of balance. And how much of our false perception of balance was blown to pieces along with searing metal, broken hearts and lost souls that day.
Tears spring to my eyes so easily, still. Remembering.
Friends who hid in their bathtubs mere blocks away as the towers fell, terrified in the black void of both light and information. Multiple children from my high school who were orphaned in a single moment. All of us across the country glued to the birth of a 24 hour news cycle, waiting in horror for more planes to fall from the sky. Chaos. Fear.
My own innocence shattered as I held my baby boy and wept inconsolably for a pre-911 world which I instantly realized he’d never know.
Our human spirit may have been targeted that day, but it’s not something which can be extinguished. It is in our DNA to heal. To rebuild. To sweat and toil and fight like hell to make things better.
To meet malevolent forces with the more powerful forces of love, kindness, goodness and humanity.
Wherever you were that day, I’m here, thinking of you, sending you love.
If you are too young to remember or if you weren’t yet born, I’m thinking of you, too. You beautiful spirits here to help us all remember that even amidst the pain and challenge and chaos, life is beautiful and YOU are a wonder. You are a beacon of hope, reminding us that GOOD is everywhere.
I love. You.