The Adventure of Writing a Book, Part 43 

The Adventure of Writing a Book, Part 43

For 14 years, I wrote a weekly golf column for the Brunswick Beacon, a weekly newspaper in Brunswick County, North Carolina, with a circulation of over 15,000. I mostly wrote about golf in the Coastal Carolinas, but once in awhile, I wrote about other things. This article is as relevant today as it was then.

Golf Gab for September 15, 2011

Retrospective of 9/11
My family had an intimate knowledge of the World Trade Center in the years prior to 9/11.  My husband’s firm, Deloitte & Touche (then Deloitte, Haskins & Sells), took up five floors of the North Tower starting in 1980.  We have many happy memories of the World Trade Center: dinners at Windows on the World Restaurant; the whooshing express elevator that brought you from the lobby to the 110th floor in a matter of seconds; the views of Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, New Jersey, the Hudson River, the Battery, and the Statue of Liberty.
To look straight down from the 99th floor, where my husband’s office was located, took an act of will for someone like me who does not like to climb a six-foot ladder.  The cars far below were smaller than a paper clip; the people were almost invisible, tiny ants crawling on the thin ribbons of sidewalk far below.
We lived in New Jersey at the time.  Our four kids were little during the early years and I took them into “the city” as often as I could.  We toured the museums (Natural History was the favorite), visited Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, went to the Central Park Zoo and the Bronx Zoo and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.  We visited the Cloisters, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and went shopping at Bloomingdales (Saks was too expensive).
We had Afternoon Tea at the Plaza and when the Crocodile Dundee movie came out, we felt like sophisticated New Yorkers.  “Ahh, yes.  We have tea there when we’re in the city.”
There were certain small things that we, as insiders to the towers, knew.  All skyscrapers are built with a certain amount of sway and when there was a high wind, the water in the toilets literally sloshed back and forth.  It was a bit disorienting and sometimes made me feel a bit squeamish.
For several years, I was the youth group leader at our Presbyterian Church.  Each year, I scheduled a trip to New York with the teens and other advisors.  I often brought them to my husband’s office to look out the windows.  Why pay to go up to the Observation Deck when we could see the same stuff for free?
As the kids got older and I began to do more free lance writing, I often went to the North Tower with Gene when he had to work on Saturday.  I would sit at his secretary’s desk and work on my articles while he worked in his office.  We’d finish late in the day and then have dinner before beginning the 1 ½ hour commute back to Holmdel.
After the 1993 bombing in the basement of the North Tower’s parking garage, the lease on the five floors came up for renewal.  The managing partner of the New York office made the decision to move the Deloitte offices to the World Financial Center, a smaller building across the street.
Cantor-Fitzgerald took over the vacated office space.  In 1988, Gene was transferred to the New Jersey offices of Deloitte, and eight years later, he retired.
When the attacks occurred in 2001, we were devastated.  Many of our friends lost family and friends in the disaster, and while Deloitte employees were spared, it was a crushing blow to everyone.  The buildings had been so vibrant, so much a part of our lives, so strong and impregnable.  They symbolized the very heart and bravery and innovation of our country.
And that’s why the cowardly terrorists drove those planes into them.  They wanted to rip out the heart and soul of our nation.  They wanted to humble us, to make us afraid.
When I saw the first plane go into the North Tower, it felt like a stake had been driven into my own heart.  The plane went right into where my husband’s office had been.  I knew that space so well, the desks, the partitions, the bathrooms, the corridors, the sounds of computers and murmur of voices, the sway of the building, the walls of glass that drew you to see the world from a bird’s eye view.
I stared in horror at the television as the second plane went into the South Tower, then another to the Pentagon, then the crash into a field in Pennsylvania (that could have been into the Capitol Building or the White House).  It was unbelievable, horrific, ghastly, hurtful.
This is America, a beacon of freedom in the world, a country that sends aid and assistance to famine-ravaged lands in the far corners of the globe, a country that landed troops on the beaches of Normandy when freedom’s light was dying under Hitler’s onslaught.
Why?  How could this happen?
Gene and I sat in front of our television set for days, watching the horror again and again, the collapse of the towers, the rescue attempts, the faces of the firefighters and other first responders who gave their own lives to save others.
Ten years have passed and we can still feel the pain and the loss and empathy for those who lost loved ones in that American Holocaust.
But I can say this with clarity and conviction:  It did not work.
They tried to bring us to our knees, to make us afraid, to make us give up the beacon of freedom that we raise for the rest of the world.  This is the country other people flee to, the place where they sneak, swim, tunnel, and raft to.
Why?  Not because we have jobs or Walmarts, but because we have freedom.
We have freedom to worship or not.  Freedom to disagree with the President and the Congress, freedom to march, to sing protest songs, freedom to travel where we want, when we want, freedom to vote, to wear a bikini if we so choose, to show our faces to strangers.  To meet and greet people of all races; to watch and participate in sports.
And that’s what the terrorists hate most about us.
On Sunday, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the NFL played football in packed stadiums all over the country with cheerleaders tumbling and shouting and gyrating in front of thousands.  In the finals of the US Open, Serena Williams lost to Sam Stosur.  The LPGA played in Arkansas, women played college soccer and golf.  Professional baseball continued.  NASCAR Sprint Cup took place in Richmond.
In the United States, women can play golf and tennis and soccer.  They can drive in car races and vote and own property.  They can show their faces and be proud of who they are:  the other half of the human race, partners of the human spirit.
Not chattel, not subservient, oppressed, covered and cosseted lesser beings.
The principal of freedom will endure, because it is embedded in the hearts and minds of men and women.  No one can take that away.

 

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