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15 Years Later

September 11, 2016

Last year, after 9-11, I had thought of an article idea, but figured I’d hold off until this year since the date had already passed, and figured the 15th anniversary would be a better occasion (being a half-round number; i.e. divisible by 5, as we see this is being made a special anniversary).

With the site being slowly rebuilt, and still looking like a construction site from Church St., I only recently (last month) finally get down to see the new memorial park and the waterfalls. And this only from heading to an MBTI Meetup group, that decided to meet at the Winter Garden, instead of midtown that month, and probably reading the phone or something, missed the stop at Cortlandt, and figured I’d get off at Rector and walk back up instead. (I did a few months earlier get to explore the new “fish skeleton” oculus, as I call it (also looks even more like a “claw” style hair clip), and the extensive maze from the entrances on Liberty or Vesey Sts. required to get to it before the connection to the new Dey St passage opened more recently).

Since then, the stores have reopened in the concourse (now under the oculus), and the new 1 WTC tower looks nearly complete. Still remaining to be rebuilt is the 1 line station.

I had earlier last year finally joined Bitstrips, posting some of its personalized memes to my Facebook. Now having weekends off (which I’ve just lost this upcoming pick beginning in November, where I’ll be working Sun-Thurs again), and there would be strips taking place in the office, like having a desk and cubicle and dealing with “the boss”, and welcoming Friday, the end of the week. This reminded me of the court job (being NYCT-RTO is very different of course. When 9-11 occurred, I had just left the courts that past winter and started Transit, and had been out of training, on “on the road” for only two months. It takes about this long to be able to get a “regular office”-like M-F AM schedule, and the current pick is my first AM w/Sat-Sun off; but apparent cuts to weekend RDO slots in the picking for my district, believed to be connected to the reshuffling of districts being done in anticipation of the upcoming Second Avenue Subway opening, have sort of set me back).

On my WTC memoir http://www.erictb.info/wtc.html I started off mentioning how on certain Fridays (one per month basically), I would leave the old job at quitting time and work my way over to the NYD-ERA railfan meeting at what’s now St. John’s, and was then “College of Insurance”, literally in the shadows of the towers. After the meeting, I would head across Murray St. to one of the subways, taking note of the cool “Friday evening” atmosphere, of people in the bars and restaurants, and the cool scene looking down West Bway at the towers.

This whole “Friday” imagery would now remind me of the WTC, and how the towers (and the rest of the complex, of course) were basically regular office buildings (that I even worked a summer in; my first true job, in fact) that these “office life” comic scenes take place in.
(More recently, Bitstrips just discontinued itself one day, though Bitmojis continue).

Last year this week (vacation both years) was also when I started my exploration of the entire career of Steely Dan, which included the song “Black Friday” (reflecting the financial crash, which had the big business leaders in their offices “dive from the fourteenth floor”, which of course that week, watching 9-11 documentaries matched images of people falling from the towers. (9-11 was a Tuesday, but the point right now is not the actual day of the week it occurred on). The song (written from the perspective of it being a future day) makes it sound like something to look forward to, when he’ll do various fun things, that “satisfy my soul”. Each line starts with a joyful sounding “When Black Friday comes…” This group’s lyrics being as they are, where you never know what exactly it’s about (and then “Black Friday” has now gained a more positive connotation, at least in the retail world, where as part of a four day holiday weekend it is a day of making a lot of sales), I just removed it from its context, and it reminded me of that whole “end of the office week” theme. Of course, Friday night is followed by Saturday, which also became a time to look forward to (https://erictb.wordpress.com/2014/03/01/2055)

But then all of this made me think of people who worked in the towers with that weekly routine, the same as in my court job, or any other regular “working hours” office; only for it to then be cut off like that, right after the weekend.
I also discovered an unreleased song, on YouTube, called “the Bear”, which was apparently about Wall st. and the video included images of the area, and thus reminded me of WTC, as did something about the sound. I think it was a different sound for them, and sounded interesting (especially with the Clavinet, which I always like), but then took on a haunting feel. The lyrics are certainly haunting, with this character who is going to “get you”, and “wants your a__”. It was said to be recorded in the sessions for either Gaucho, or even the album before it, the definitive Aja (Hard to imagine that on there. The more rockish sound would stick out so much from the smooth, jazzy feel).
The only thing I could compare it to was the title track of the album before that, “The Royal Scam”, whose cover is graced with a somewhat haunting image of a Hispanic immigrant (the subject of the song) sleeping on a bench, as these huge office buildings tower over him; and looking down from the tops of each of the four of them are the huge heads of a lizard, a bear(!) or rat (looks like the inflatable labor dispute rats, though a bear would make more sense, being a large predator), a python or cobra, and I think a cougar or other large cat. (Another one I more recently took note of, that sounds even more like it is the later Fagen solo “Big Noise, New York”, made for a Spike Lee Film that was never produced).

Didn’t want to ramble on this side stuff too much, but the point is that all of these images came together to represent the enjoyment of the “cool” aspects of average working class life (good office job, ending the work week and enjoying downtown nightlife with cool music afterward), and how it could all end suddenly, horribly, in the middle of the weekly cycle.

While listening to the song, and with the images of people falling from the towers from the documentaries (which also included audio transmissions of the doomed firemen inside, trying to come up with ways to fight the fire and evacuate people in dead elevators) still in my head, it conjured images of some young person, who perhaps may have have grown up feeling rejected and powerless. He somewhere along the way gets a big break in his career, moves up in a company, has his office near the top of one of the towers, and thus seems literally “on top of the world”. Everything seems “cool”; “perfect”. (I think of the Michael J. Fox character on Family Ties, who while always aspiring to be a big business entrepreneur, did strike me as a typical nerdy kid who rose up to that stature; having those business calls where he’s yelling at the other person on the phone, or whatever).
Yet on that fateful morning, the planes hit from below, and now he is trapped, waiting for the inevitable.
This could have been me, if things had been different. It could have been any of us.

It just shows how fragile this life is, and how we’re all part of the same vulnerable humanity, and those who such horrible things happen to are basically just like us, working to live, and then trying to get through their week, and (hopefully) recreate.
(In fairness, I’m also seeing things addressed more from the perspective of those in the mideast countries we have been fighting, where “9-11”-like situations are a common frequent occurrence).

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