An afternoon errand recently brought me by the World Trade Center. Perfect day for it, too; I had come out of the subway at Broadway and as I walked along Fulton Street toward Church, I had to shield my eyes from the sunlight that bounced off the shiny, new buildings and lit the place up like white sand on a tropical beach. Once I hit Church, I waded into a throng of dawdling tourists that blithely blocked the paths of determined commuters in that day’s session of the Rush Hour Waltz. I had no trouble finding the beat. I had spent ten years darting through the herds on those very streets. Now, I know the world could do without another “these eyes have seen…” spiel that says more about the narcissism – and age – of the deliverer than anything else, however…
Starting in 2006, I worked for ten years on the 33rd floor of an office tower across West Street from the World Trade Center. Not a working day passed that I didn’t peer down into the hole that had been the foundation for the twin towers. Though the rebuilding process was well underway, the place was still a canyon surrounded by sheer cliffs of glass and steel, very much a “Ground Zero”.
The site teemed with thousands of people, all manner of vehicles, every variety of heavy equipment, tons of building materials and heaps of debris. I marveled at the sheer volume of tasks, workers, plans, managers, education, expertise, experience, vision, coordination, cooperation, agencies, contractors, investors and all-out effort involved in transforming a scene of tragedy into what is now something H.G. Wells could scarcely imagine, resplendent and transcendent.
I wasn’t the only person at work transfixed by the construction. My colleagues and I often chatted about the progress we observed, but we never had to mention the collective, unshakeable conviction that the World Trade Center must rise again. When those towers fell, we as a city, a state, a nation had suffered a devastating blow to our equilibrium, and this crater in the heart of New York’s Financial District was a daily reminder of that. If we could feel this uncanny ethos 300 feet up, the people in the pit actually doing the work had to be immersed in it.
By 2014, work on the Freedom Tower had just begun when I suffered a life‑altering catastrophe of my own: My 10+‑year marriage came to a very abrupt end. Per the unfounded order of a petulant judge issued August 15 of that year, I was legally barred from the home I bought for my family and denied unfettered access to my own children. These eyes have seen many things, but nothing that shook me to my core like this.
I started this blog in part to help manage the pain of having my children ripped from me by an unsympathetic, archaic and sexist family court system. These posts merely hint at the difficulties I faced while adjusting to life as a part-time dad with a full-time “support” obligation. On my darkest days, I would think of the people in that pit and their resolve to erect a monument from a pile of dust. In that context, it was clear what I had to do for my kids and for myself.
I stopped blogging to fix my mind, body and wallet. This was my wholesale reconstruction project. Now that the hard work is done, I realize that everything I found remarkable about the transition of Ground Zero to the new World Trade Center is exemplified in my personal recovery.
I felt some kinda way revisiting the place. It is a spectacle, a man-made miracle and a testament to things that cannot be seen, touched or even accurately described…but even the World Trade Center has nothin’ on me.