I held her hand tightly, because I could. It’s what she wanted. It was sure as hell what I wanted.

She was visiting me from out of state and I was showing off the city. We had been wandering around Manhattan all day and now long into the evening. It was New Years Eve and we had taken the train in from the Island to watch the ball drop. That would be later. For now we were just looking for things to do that didn’t involve being out in the cold.

So we lingered, here on the top of this tallest of buildings. Seeing the city spread out before us…the warm orange glow of sodium vapor lights stretching out in all directions…as far as the eye could see. It was pretty, interspersed with the dark tendrils of rivers and the blotches of bays and inlets. To the east it came to an abrupt end where the mainland gave way to the dark Atlantic.

Somewhere near, in relative terms, stood a twin. Just as high but you never thought about the other tower when you were up here. You were too awed by the panorama and the engineering marvel you stood on top of. The observation deck was dark and combined with the glow outside it had an intimacy. I was no fool…that is why we came here.

It was always quiet at night. For some reason no one spoke. Or at least they spoke in whispers. At the Narrows I could see the lights of the Verazanno Narrows Bridge. My grandfather, a union electrician had worked on that illumination; as he had done with the building we currently stood in. I never thought about it at the time. He had been involved in so many of the iconic public works around our city.

Now…now that place where Jenny and I stood is no more. Pulverized into dust. The soaring steel arches melted down to make warships and toaster ovens. We stood atop a massive structure that turned out to be as fragile as the egos of the men that built it. I’ve lost that memory of Jenny. But more importantly, those men, those zealots that flew airplanes full of people into the spot where Jenny and I stood, those men, took away the legacy of my grandfather. They took a little piece of me I cannot get back. Like so many New Yorkers, we lost a family member. An in-law of a cousin, a fireman trapped when the towers came down. I never met him so the grief did not touch me directly. My only loss was of memories and legacies and while those hurt, they can be gotten over.

Still, Lower Manhattan will never look the same to me. The imposing view from the Staten Island Ferry. The sweet memories of my Grandfather, and the night with Jenny live on, but they are tinged with melancholy. I miss the buildings. I miss Jenny. I miss my Grandfather.

© Glenn R Keller 2021, All Rights Reserved

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