I can’t believe it has been 14 years since the infamous attack on the World Trade Center in New York. I still get chills when I see videos or photos of 9/11.
When I visited the site in the fall of the following year, there still was a heavy shroud of grief around Ground Zero, a heaviness that settled in your heart, no matter if you were in a tour group or all alone. It was an almost hypnotic force that drew you to approach the fenced-off area, and stare at the grotesque-looking steel remnant, standing in mute testimony of the tragedy that visited there. I felt compelled to pray.
I was with my forever NY friend and we left quietly, recalling better times, dining and dancing at Windows on the World, the spectacular restaurant up on the 107th floor of the North Tower, up in the sky.
I remember my first visit, my ears popping during the almost one-minute elevator ride.
I will never forget the floor-to-ceiling windows, pressing my face against the cold glass trying to take it all in—that magnificent view of Manhattan and, beyond it, New Jersey.
Below us, everything looked like a toy village with sparkling buildings, bridges and streets. It looked clean, no garbage, no traffic. Just lights twinkling like multicolored stars.
It was like being transported to another dimension where the noise and mess of everyday living had disappeared as if by magic.
The four-piece band was playing all my favorite songs. Or so it seemed. I was at once filled with romantic notions and deep nostalgia. Unforgettable.
I went back another time for lunch. It was an entirely different experience, but still awesome.
Today, One World Trade Center stands where the towers once stood, and fell. It was first called Freedom Tower. The spire on top has made it the tallest building in the Western hemisphere.
I am told it is breathtaking. It was built to symbolize the American spirit, its resiliency, courage and hope. But since 9/11, how can anyone visit this site and not remember; and remembering, not grieve?
One more time
My desire to see New York again is on my latest bucket list.
I read somewhere that there’s a plan to close NY La Guardia Airport. What a shame.
I must admit LGA looks rather rundown. But landing there has a feel that is so New York! You are greeted by the aroma of pretzels, hotdogs and mustard; a delicious foretaste of the real deal, that juicy boiled frankfurter and sauerkraut in a warm bun sold under a dusty umbrella on practically every street corner.
My favorite vendor was on 63rd and 3rd. I could see him from the window above my bed.
If I do get another crack at the Big Apple, I want to watch “Allegiance,” a new musical drama with our own Lea Salonga and “Star Trek” veteran George Takei. There is an interesting video chat online about the “making of” with the two stars and Telly Leung, who plays the young Takei.
“Allegiance” was inspired by the true story of a Japanese/American family at the outset of World War II, and what happened days and years after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is “the untold American story,” about wrongful imprisonment, citizenship and loyalty.
A human tragedy
The heartbreaking image of a two-year-old boy, lying face down and lifeless on a beach, has gone viral. Little Aylan Kurdi was washed ashore near the fashionable resort of Bodrum.
He and his parents and older brother were fleeing from the horrors of war in Syria, trying to reach the Greek island of Kos in search of a better life. They were on a tiny boat manned by two smugglers. The sea got rough. Only his father survived.
Today Abdullah keeps vigil beside the graves of his wife and children. “I will sit beside them until I die.” His dreams are gone.
Aylan has unwittingly become the poster child in an attempt to awaken a complacent world to the plight of millions of desperate men, women and children who are “paying the blood of their hearts just to leave” Syria and find safety and hope somewhere, anywhere in the world.
A TV commentator recently gave his grim reaction. “People will forget,” he said. “They will weep and perhaps throw money at the problem. But anger is short-lived. It’s all about hope!”
Photographer Nilufer Demir took the photograph that shocked the world. “There was nothing I could do except take his photograph,” she said.
“It was the only way I could express the scream of his silent body.”
The world cannot turn away from the images of dead babies, of weeping mothers and fathers, their faces contorted in grief and despair.
There is a real human tragedy happening out there as we sleep soundly in our beds. How can we help?
In 1937, President Quezon gave asylum to 1,200 Jews. After the Vietnam War, in the late 1970s, we took in the “boat people.” And recently we offered shelter to Rohingya migrants stranded at sea. We understand human suffering.
Today our country, still staggering from natural calamities and beset by our own struggles with poverty, is once again showing the world that we are indeed a little country with a big heart.