9/11, The World Trade Center, & New York's Next Skyline


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On September 11, I'll be thinking less about the World Trade Center and more about my father and the relentless—probably unique—ability of New York City to bury its dead and move on without a backward glance.

My father was born in Manhattan in 1923, in a tenement building off Columbus Circle. A few years later, he moved to Brooklyn, a borough that was considered the country back then, a place that had more horses than cars. By the time he left there for good in 1966, it wasn't the country anymore, that's for sure.

He worked for Sea-Land, a shipping company that was one of the World Trade Center's original tenants, and one of my very earliest memories is of my older brother and me playing in the company's unfinished offices in one of the towers before the complex opened to the public in 1973.

Like many, probably most, New Yorkers, my father hated the Twin Towers at first, preferring the Chrysler and Empire State buildings, which had gone up during his childhood.

He'd seen King Kong when it came out in 1933, he explained, and he just couldn't see the big ape climbing the towers. By the late '70s—after Philippe Petit tightrope walked across them, George Willig scaled them, Owen Quinn parachuted from them, and King Kong himself had been shot off them in a 1976 remake—he'd come around.

On a trip to Manhattan around then, he asked me if I wanted to see where he'd been born. He hadn't been to the old neighborhood since before the war and was feeling nostalgic. We walked toward the Circle only to realize that not only the building he'd been born in was gone, but the entire street—paved over sometime in the '50s or '60s in the rush to build Lincoln Center, a place he'd never think of entering.

As the realization sunk in, he shrugged, turned to me, and said, "Well, do you wanna go see a movie instead?"

There's nothing that will lessen the horror of 9/11 or do justice to the murdered souls interred forever at Ground Zero. But in a strange and beautiful and terrible way, New York—and America—will honor them most by pausing only briefly to pay our respects.

Written by Nick Gillespie and produced by Meredith Bragg.

Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.tv and Reason.com, and the co-author with Matt Welch of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America. Bragg is a producer for Reason.tv and a 2010 finalist for a digital National Magazine Award for best video.

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