There will be no admission.
It’s July 1982. Komuna, gray, Relax winter boots were bought two days ago. As a 10-year-old I am sitting with my parents on a plot near Białystok. We visit our neighbors. I am listening. The conversation turns to geopolitics. They say something about the USA. I, already then fascinated by the States, interfere without being asked: when I am in my third year of studies, I will take a leave and fly to New York.
10 years old. In 1982. About going to America.
10 years later, in October 1992, I landed on JFK for the first time. I didn’t have to take a leave.
Even then, I know more about NYC than the average American. I am fascinated by architecture, urban solutions, colors and people. Everyone.
Many years before my arrival, I receive a colorful album from my father about the Big Apple, “A picture book to remember Her by” (in Anglo-Saxon countries, something that we particularly like is often referred to as feminine).
I am browsing a publication with a flushed face and suddenly, among the many photos, one thing catches my attention: the illuminated twin towers of the WTC, captured in the evening from the perspective of a rain-drenched street. I can’t look away. The photo is absolutely mesmerizing. It moves me deeply.
And in 1992 I stood on the roof of the south tower of the WTC complex for the first time.
I admire the magical city, but I feel the greatest euphoria being there. After that, I will visit the Windows of the World restaurant in the North Tower many times. Many times I will be delighted at the feet of each of them and, tilting my head, admire the lines of the facade.
On September 11, 2001, I was awakened in San Francisco, where I happened to be living.
By 6 a.m., my roommates and I were getting ready for the next day of the American dream. My friend turned on the TV and suddenly he yells at us: gentlemen, but f … a realistic movie, come here. His friend did not know English to the extent that he could see that it was not a movie after all.
I froze. I knew something was wrong.
A dozen or so minutes later the whole of America and the whole world knew.
Half an hour later, the sirens of ambulances, police, SanFran too.
The first armored vehicles appeared, the National Guard. Probably all uniforms appeared on the street. The streets of usually quiet suburbs of the Bay Area turned into a festival of confusion, shock, and at the same time the amazing organization of services and parts of ordinary people.
I left for work after the collapse of the first of the towers, and even then I saw American flags attached to many cars I passed and the words “United we stand”.
On reaching the Golden Gate Bridge, which I had to cross, I noticed armored cars at both ends. As the first information said that an Air France plane headed for San Francisco was also hijacked, terrorist attacks on the facilities there were feared, and the GGB is the best and spectacular place to carry out another one. Each car was inspected and I spent about three hours in the queue to cross the bridge.
I did not believe what was happening, that day reminded me of some gloomy joke of the Creator, a frame from a bad movie or mescaline visions of Prosper Szmurła.
All afternoon I watched broadcasts, reports on the course of events. When it turned out that one of the heroes of the famous Flight 93 was a Bay Area resident, I went to Los Gatos, where he lived, to honor his memory. What I saw exceeded my wildest expectations. The city’s focal point turned into a living altar dedicated to Mark Bingham, who sacrificed his life saving hundreds of others and thwarted terrorist plans by causing a plane to crash in a field in Pennsylvania.
I was crying, I didn’t believe what was happening.
America cried, the world cried.
I hated the Arab world that day. With no exception.
Interestingly, my original date of return to Poland was on September 11th. I was supposed to fly to NYC daily, where I always stayed for a while. I’d be flying back on a SanFran flight to Newark, maybe even that plane that fell in Pennsylvania, because the ticket was on the United line.
On December 15, 2001, I was back for good. I’m staying in New York.
Going to the Zero Zone, I did not know what image I would think. I was afraid to go there, I was afraid of what I would see. And even though life in the city had returned to its normal standard, already two blocks in front of the WTC complex, or what was left of it, people moved more slowly, their faces looked serious. There was dust all the time on the facades of the buildings, here and there you could see damaged fragments of shop windows.
I finally got there. Already from several dozen meters you could smell the smell of burning, melted plastic, death.
I saw the protruding skeleton of the north tower, a fragment of several dozen square meters was burnt out of two large buildings.
I wept like many others. I didn’t know how possible, how much hate it took to do something like this. I was looking at the huge American flag hanging near the ruins, but the fact that the firefighters were still extinguishing it made the biggest impression on me.
I approached an older employee and asked how is it possible that you are still putting it out. He replied, “You know, it was the Heart of America. And a heart filled with the passion of love for one’s country is not so easy to extinguish. I have been working here every day since September 11th. My son, who was a fireman, died in these ruins. ”
Nothing could describe my respect for this man. To this day, nothing is able to describe my grief after the destruction of this miracle of architecture, as I described it for my needs.
The WTC towers greeted me every time I came to NYC, they were the first sight, as I commuted to Manhattan on the NJ Transit from New Brunswick, NJ, they were the last I saw leaving this fascinating city in the evening.
Do you remember the movie “Wrath of the Ocean” and the last scene? Let me paraphrase it a bit:
“You get on the Staten Island Ferry, you take a seat near the captain’s bridge. It is a warm September evening, the ferry leaves the pier, its orange color contrasting with the dark waters of Upper New York Bay. You look straight ahead, the wind blows through your face. On the left you pass Governors Island, on the right in a moment Liberty Island with the famous Statue of Liberty. And then you turn your head towards lower Manhattan and you see Je. Proud and haughty Twins. One of the symbols of New York. A masterpiece of architecture illuminated by thousands of light bulbs. Shimmering proudly in the night sky. You are part of this city. You are a New Yorker. Can there be anything to compare to it?
There will be no ending. Feeling remains
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