Vol 6 No. 51 - September 13, 2006

Remembering the Twin Towers

Never forget
Like Americans all across the land, Island residents spent part of Monday remembering those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks five years ago on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Here, a group holds up 9-11 T-shirts at D. Coy Ducks in Holmes Beach. From left are: Ed Jarosz, Glenn Corder, Evie Mitchell, Lisa O’Connel, Roe Koutra, Beth Guertin (in front) and John Mehalko.

Editors note: Brenda Katz is a Holmes Beach resident and a mom. On this fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attack, she recalls a previous visit with her daughter to the World Trade Center.

By Brenda Katz
special to the sun

"Mom – I – don’t – want – to – go – up!".

"Stephanie, we're going up."

My daughter was starting to cry. She was a small, blond with poor “little lost me” waif eyes, making her look younger than her 11 years. People around us were staring. At me.

"She doesn’t have to. You go on up and I’ll stay down here with her. I don’t care if I go up either."

Now my mother was jumping in this conversation and lying. She wanted to go up to the top of the World Trade Center. This was one of the reasons she suggested we take this mother-daughter-granddaughter trip.

We are not going to back out at the last minute, here in the lobby waiting for the elevator.

"I just don’t want to go. I’m afraid." Stephanie was gathering the crowd on her side. "I just don’t like heights." The tears were starting now.

I stared straight ahead. This was supposed to be a fun day. I was so tempted to say OK, but no. This is a Girl Scout. This is a kid who camps in the dark woods. Strong and independent. She’ll be glad she did this. However as we waited, doubt crept in. After this, she’ll probably never even climb stairs again. The elevator door opened. And closed. Not our turn yet. The crowd shuffled closer to the front. It was taking forever times 10.

Sniffling could be heard. I wasn’t sure if it was my daughter or my mother. I didn’t look. I stared straight ahead and my thoughts turned inward. My thoughts are never far from food. I was hungry. They must be hungry, too. Food would help. A mother’s nightmare is to get stuck in a crowd of people with a crying, hungry child. This was now my reality.

Then I remembered the pretzel we bought on the street was in my pocket. I pulled it out and offered Stephanie a piece to distract her. She shook her head and briefly closed her eyes, as if to say, "How could I eat when I am suffering so?"

I ate. The pretzel I had looked forward to tasted like cardboard. My mouth was dry – salty dry. I berated myself for not packing a good snack. I started hoping there were restaurants at the top. A glance at the two prisoners beside me made me doubt I could get them into a restaurant. The crowd glared at me. How dare I eat at a time like this.

"I just don’t want to go up." She was relentless. I swear I could smell fear. Hers or mine? This crowd was getting dangerous. I felt their silent yells. I wanted to announce, "You should see this kid under different circumstances. She’ll be fine." I just stared straight ahead.

The elevator door opened. Shuffling – our turn. We shuffled in. The door closed and the world began to rise. Up. I’m sure there was an announcement or music to distract us as we rose higher and higher, but I heard nothing. Instead I saw something. The child I knew was emerging. She stood erect, tightened her pony tail and became stoic. She would face this ordeal with dignity.

By the time we arrived at the top, my daughter was ready. The doors opened to a room of activity: People of many ethic backgrounds, intermingled bits of conversations in various languages, families, couples, people alone but not looking lonely. There were shops teeming with souvenirs, and, to my relief, the enticing aroma of multiple cafes. Then there was the view! Some of the most powerful views in the world were right there – and over there – and on the other side.

Taking it all in, Stephanie relished the experience and the electric excitement, smiling and happy. My mother was also smiling and happy. What a fun day! We ate. We shopped. We were on top of the world at the World Trade Center in New York City. Later that day, our personal memory was captured in a snapshot I took of Stephanie with the towers in the background.

Then, a few years later, came the morning of 9/11 and we lost the Twin Towers for eternity. With tears, I rushed and copied that picture of Stephanie and the towers on our home copying machine. I didn’t want to lose my only picture.

Life is full of irony. When I copied the picture, the clarity was such that the background and the towers didn’t show up. They were simply gone. So I now have a picture of my daughter with, and without, the Twin Towers. The next day we took the same photo to the bank and copied it again, but the unique disappearance only happened on our old copying machine.

Just a fluke? Of course, but is there a lesson here? For Stephanie, for me, for my mother and for those people down below who wanted to yell at me? Surely, some of them must have noticed her up there so full of joy. Yes, probably there is a lesson here because, after all, when you think about it, we all need to go up – fear and all – to the top of whatever challenge we each face.

And my advice is to pack a good snack to take with you.

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