Gone but not forgotten

The four of us. Circa 1980.

The four of us. Circa 1980.

They meant so much to so many. Symbols of financial prowess. Pillars of modern engineering. Giant quote marks. Some New Yorkers even saw the two twin towers of the World Trade Center as two huge middle fingers to the rest of the world. “Fuck all of youz, New York is the best!” they seemed to say.

To me, however, 9- and 12- and 15-year old me, they were Daddy’s office. The coolest place on earth to go for the day.

Back then my father was the press secretary for Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, whose downstate office was on the 57th Floor of Tower 2, the one with Windows on the World at the top. Dad commuted from our house on Long Island—a round-trip of nearly three hours each day. Admittedly, I was puzzled as to why anyone would spend so much damn time just getting to and from work. But when I saw how much he loved it, when I saw how much he lived it, I wasn’t angry at all. I just wanted to experience the place for myself.

And I did. Dad took me into work with him regularly, usually when the Governor wasn’t around. Sometimes he even pulled me out of school. It was educational, he told my teachers. And it was.

I’d always bring homework, and Dad would set me up in the press conference room for a few hours while he did work of his own. People would come in to say hi to me, Steve’s son. Sometimes I’d even get up on the podium and pretend I was the governor myself.

There were other memorable parts of the ritual. Like bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches from a deli that delivered (this was an incredible luxury for impressionable moi). And the chance to steal office supplies (which I still do at every opportunity). When I finished my schoolwork each day, I’d sit on the HVAC system in the window bay of dad’s office and peer out the windows, looking out on the harbor and down on the city below. Sometimes I’d just stare for hours. It never got old.

Perhaps this is why, for me, the World Trade Center was so great. Yes, it was my father’s place of work—a place where he spent far more time than he did in our house. And, yes, it was bigger and taller and more grownup than anything I ever could imagine at the time. But it also was a place of excitement. A place of import. A place where I always seemed to feel a lot older than I was. And a place where I could steal a few solo moments with Dad.

Put simply, even though only one of us was on vacation there, the Twin Towers represented one of the greatest family travel destinations ever.

I was in Manhattan the day they fell, 14 years ago. I breathed the dust. I felt the ground shake. I experienced the apocalypse. The day changed everything—how I felt about the world, how I felt about New York, how I feel about being alive, really. But nothing ever truly will take away what those Towers gave to me all those years. Or what they represent in my heart.

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