I don’t want to get into the “where were you” discussions or a rehashing of the incredible pain and sadness associated with 9/11. Everyone has those stories and, while they should not be discounted, I would rather talk about a place, a picture, and the memory of what once was.
The picture above was taken by my friend Sean McCoy who is from Houston. I’m on the left. The guy on the right is Rob Lee, who was born and raised in New York. The three of us were on the obligatory tour of Manhattan as it was Sean’s first visit to New York. A trip to the World Trade Center was always a must. I had been to the World Trade Center a number of times before. No matter how many times I went, I was always in absolute awe at the size of the Twin Towers. The feeling of being insignificant was never more palpable than when I would stand next to those buildings. They were just so goddamn big.
Rob, Sean and I made our way down to lower Manhattan on a cloudy June morning in 1998 after a long day at Yankee Stadium and a longer evening of bar-hopping the day before. We wearily made our way to the Trade Center, giggling amongst ourselves and reciting lines from the Simpsons episode where Homer goes to the Twin Towers. We headed up to the observation deck. Sean had his camera and we took a few pictures from the top of the building. We made a quick stop on the floor below to the Windows of the World restaurant, which had the seats by the windows where you could press your head against the glass and look all the way down. Every time I used to sit by the window, I always had this strange feeling that if I leaned too far forward, I would tip the building over.
We walked out to the center of the World Trade Center to leave. As we headed to the street to catch a cab, Sean wanted to take one more picture. He stopped in the middle of the plaza and said, “Let me take a picture of you two with the towers above you.” He then got down on the ground to take the shot. Rob and I were not thrilled with this and let him know it. It was embarrassing to have this guy lying on the ground in front of us, taking a picture, but it was classic Sean, so we agreed. We stood, without smiling, as Sean did his best impression of Annie Leibovitz.
We saw the picture a few weeks later after they were developed and thought it actually looked pretty cool. It almost looked like an album cover. I asked for a copy, but didn’t think too much about it as time went on. And then 9/11 happened.
This picture now holds a special place in the hearts of all three of us and our families. I look at it from time to time and get emotional. Even writing this is hard. It’s difficult to even put into words. But, I guess, simply put, it’s our personal connection to a place that so many people now hold so dear to them and miss with all their hearts. The moment this photo was taken was fairly insignificant at the time, but the instant the buildings fell, it meant everything to me. It always will.