HOW HAS THE UNITED STATES — SO SECURE IN THE WORLD OF 1900 — BECOME SO INSECURE TODAY?
9-11: Prescient Memorabilia
By Richard Pilkington
September 11, 2006Fifty-years before that fateful day, George F. Kennan’s American Diplomacy: 1900-1950 addressed America’s Foreign Policy—
"A nation which excuses its own failures by the sacred untouchableness of its own habits can excuse itself into complete disaster."
I had just arrived at the government employment office, a little early, for an orientation meeting about their job search services. At the time, I lived just south of the Erie Canal outside Rochester, NY.
I must have left the house about an hour earlier, to catch a bus that heads north to the city, that morn. It could have been the #24 (the Marketplace Mall/RIT route). But, it was probably the #50 (MCC/Rustic Village bus), which stops right in front of my house. I don’t remember any details. It was pretty routine.
The late ’60s, early ’70s were my self-enlightenment years (the years everyone experiences, that foments who you’ll be as an adult) . At the time, I couldn’t grasp why I was being told America was the “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave” and “all men are created equal” yet, blacks were fighting for their civil rights. Certainly, I wasn’t alone in those ideas. I remained ignorant for many years; but that’s another story.
I grew up in New Jersey, less than 15 miles from Manhattan. My hometown was small, about three-square-miles. No school buses. A 1000 student high school. We were very insulated from the broader political issues; I wouldn’t say typical — but like many suburban communities, I think.
The awesome New York skyline was very familiar to me. I have a vague recollection, of my thoughts — my opinion — to someone’s query about the “Twin Towers”. It was probably around the time they were opening the World Trade Center. My response, a child’s notion — seems a somewhat dysfunctional position — my disillusion, about the towers’ rise above the Empire State Building. My penchant for the underdog.
I spent a decade enjoying New York City. In the mid ’80s I worked at 1 New York Plaza. Located on the east-side, 1NY Plaza is the southernmost of all Manhattan skyscrapers. Looking out the west window on the 42nd floor, the towers loomed.
A close friend worked for a carpenter’s union in New York. When I told him where I’d be working, he thought it might be across the street from his current project. Less the details, the carpenters build forms that concrete is poured into — their part in erecting buildings — floor by floor.
Sure enough — I could see from the 42nd floor, sharply downward, out the window, a construction crew on top of the building across the street. A co-worker had brandished a pair of binoculars, which I asked to borrow. A somewhat odd coincidence — I could see my friend on the roof below.
That summer, on Saturday, July 4, 1986, a group of friends and I took a bus to Manhattan’s midtown Port Authority for the “Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration”. We walked West Side Highway (a.k.a. 9A, West Street) to lower Manhattan, enjoying the Hudson River view of “Operation Sails” the flotilla of tall ships.
Of course, that walk down West Street would bring us past the World Trade Center. I had driven by 100s of times, and thousands since. It was the closest I would ever get to those buildings.
Fast forward — 9/11, 2001.