(Artwork by Joel Cruz, 8 years old)
He climbs up to where I am. pretty fast. fast as he can. He sure loses his shyness pretty quick. I think we're going to fall for sure. but I hold on. hold on to him and he holds on to me. and just before I close my eyes, I see three lights spark to life in the Twin Towers, like stars just for me. my mind is made up. there really is no choice after that. I've settled on which buildings are my favorite, once and for all. ---(from the draft of my book Tomorrow, Maybe)
This is how the original version of the last paragraph on page 55 of Tomorrow, Maybe was written in the spring of 2001. This book was meant to be an abstracted story of my first few years of living in New York City. In those years, I found New York to be a terribly lonely place at times, but always a beautiful one. The way the skyline changes as you walk is certainly a part of that. When I was kid, I loved the romantic nature of the Empire State Building, but the longer I lived there, I grew to appreciate the Twin Towers even more. Having worked in an office with a magnificent view of them, I got to see them come to life with light everyday. This was the feeling I was writing about in the above passage.
The great thing about the view was that there were no buildings in the line of sight despite the twenty or so blocks between where I was and where they were. Of course, the very same wonderful view that I loved so much also proved to have consequences. On this morning, ten years ago, I was standing outside on the patio of the top floor of that building watching smoke billowing into the sky. I stood with friends and we watched in confusion, wondering, like everyone else, what was going on and why helicopters weren't landing to attempt a rescue of the people on the top floors. Then the first tower fell before our eyes and everyone screamed.
There was a rush to evacuate the building after that. On the stairs, someone who had been in their office asked me what was happening. All I could say was 'it's gone.' Minutes later I was lost in the wild stampede of frightened people running north on Broadway. Just two days before, I had been driving into the city through the Holland Tunnel and I remember expressing my amazement at the two buildings with the person in the car with me. I had been saying, as I often did, that sometime in the distant future, civilizations were going to marvel at those buildings the same way we do at the pyramids in Egypt.
In the final version of Tomorrow, Maybe, we changed it to read the Empire State Building. This wasn't out of any 'sensitivity' that was rewriting history at that time. It was merely because we didn't want to date the action in the story of the book to a certain time. But the original version was the honest version. My favorite buildings disappeared ten years ago along with thousands of fellow New Yorkers. But as horrible as it was, on that day and the days and weeks after, no one in New York felt lonely...we all hurt and healed as one.