Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 Remembrance and an Odd Momento

Has it been ten years? It seems so much more recent. The world has changed and we've become accustomed to the unthinkable.

I remember well the horror of that day and watching it unfurl from almost the first minute. My complete disbelief when the first tower fell and the awful realization of how many people were probably still in the building. A Canadian friend was visiting and I don't think we could tear ourselves away from the news for at least 24 hours. Such a sad day.

You see, I knew those towers very well. I was included in several meetings with the architects, discussing the incredible engineering which would allow almost open floorplans. I first saw the site while they were constructing the "bathtub". Then those towers began to rise. Wearing a hard hat, I visited the towers while they were under construction. I talked to the steel workers who were so proud that they were constructing something far beyond any ordinary skyscraper strength or actual requirements. The steel would withstand anything, or so they thought! I rode up to the 112th floor on a freight elevator that had a gap of a couple of feet from the floor level. You had to swing the elevator and jump off when it neared the floor. Wow! And when I say 112th floor, it was the top of the building plus another level, then the elevator finished on top of that platform and you walked down some steps. There were no guardrails on the building. You were above the clouds and any airplanes. You were even above the wind. It was the tallest building in the world then.

Now here is a momento. My permanent pass to the observation deck on top of one of the towers. For myself and my "guests". I lived in Paris when it was issued. And it is signed by the president of the World Trade Centers, Guy Tozzoli, who added the "permanent" comment. An odd bit of history.

And this was my 4th of July birthday celebrated at Windows on the World with several International World Trade Centers characters, note the ties. Better days.

There was a cocktail party held on the 110th floor for some reason while the building was under construction. Although they had cleared a space, it was still a worksite. It was night with lights rigged. The floor to ceiling windows looked as though they had metal covering them, which I found strange. I walked over and put my hand up to touch the "metal" and my hand went straight through. It was the lights against the clouds outside and not metal at all. You could put a hand on each side of the opening and lean out over the city. It was a long way down. I was also there for the gala opening dinner when Windows on the World absolutely sparkled with tuxedos and ball gowns. Many, many memories tied up with those towers.

Andrea Booher photo for FEMA, note sphere in background
One odd thing I've noticed with all the memorial programs. They refer to a globe that was in the plaza as though it was just a ball of metal. In fact it was a most beautiful sculpture by Fritz Koenig, a huge orb representing world peace through world trade. It was still visible in some of the aftermath photos. I wonder where it finally ended up?*

The memorial garden looks beautiful. I love the footprint fountains and the trees. I hope it will be a peaceful place.

The Sphere is 25 feet high and cast in 52 bronze segments. Koenig considered it his "biggest child". It was put together in Bremen, Germany and shipped as a whole to Lower Manhattan.[1] The artwork was meant to symbolize world peace through world trade, and was placed at the center of a ring of fountains and other decorative touches designed by trade center architect Minoru Yamasaki to mimic the Grand Mosque of Mecca, Masjid al-Haram, in which The Sphere stood at the place of the Kaaba. It was set to rotate once every 24 hours, and its base became a popular lunch spot for workers in the trade center on days with good weather.
At its current location in Battery Park, a plaque alongside The Sphere reads as follows:
For three decades, this sculpture stood in the plaza of the World Trade Center. Entitled "The Sphere", it was conceived by artist Fritz Koenig as a symbol of world peace. It was damaged during the tragic events of September 11, 2001, but endures as an icon of hope and the indestructible spirit of this country. The Sphere was placed here on March 11, 2002 as a temporary memorial to all who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.
This eternal flame was ignited on September 11, 2002 in honor of all those that were lost. Their spirit and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What I Did on My Summer Vermont...with Irene

Needed a little vacation at the end of an entire summer of 100F to 110F temperatures, every day perfectly sunny, like a furnice. Decided to visit some very old, very dear friends who live in the perfect climate. I wanted cool and rain. K & W have plenty of that, plus mountains and forest and a brook at the foot of their hill. Plus a perfect huge dog.

I Love Lucy the Irish Wolfhound

I was of course in Killington, on a mountain, on Roaring Brook Road, as in Roaring Brook is at the bottom of my friends' front yard. As in Roaring Brook that flooded all over the place. As in Roaring Brook which washed away the bridge on the road below the house.

Organic round stone house dug into the mountain
For the first few days, we had a lovely time driving around the area. We even went to Webs in Northhampton MA, that mecca for knitters. We returned home by way of Battleboro, Ludlow, Woodstock and Mendon. Lots to see. We also made an excursion to nearby Rutland with its Green Mountain Yarns. The mountain ash in front was in full bloom, or is it berries. 
Mountain Ash
Green Mountain Fibers in Rutland
 And a visit to Mr. Twitter's.
The delightful Mr. Twitter's in Rutland
 Found a wonderful yarn shop in Proctorsville...Six Loose Ladies.
Six Loose Ladies in Proctorsville

Historic covered bridge in Woodstock
We made still another run to Woodstock for Gillingham's, the famous Farmer's Market and the hardware, foraging supplies for the coming storm. We didn't expect much weather, but better to be safe than sorry.

Gillingham's Store Cat and Supervisor...Adelaide
Then we planned to spend the day Hurricane Irene was expected to arrive safely at home. The rain started around midnight on Saturday and continued for about 18 hours. It didn't seem too heavy and the wind was not impressive, certainly not for three New Orleanians who had survived many a hurricane, including Katrina. We stood out on the terrace several times and remarked that luckily, we had dodged a bullet this time. We could hear the brook below roaring more than usual, but we didn't have a clear view through all the trees. We were totally nonchalant. Then we lost power. And with the power went the pumps, so no water, no flushing toilets, no telephone, no cooking, no fridge, etc. etc. We thought this would be repaired before too long so we just went to bed around dark.

Neighbors woke us early morning bringing news, none of it good. First off...Killington was now an island. Killington had lost all connection with the rest of the world. Route 4 that ran through town was washed out on either side of the village. Rutland was hard hit and that road was impassable. We couldn't get out to anywhere and no help could get in. The same neighbors had a generator and kindly invited us up for hot coffee and news. Various people kept dropping in, bringing a little more information each time. They were projecting a couple of weeks before power could be restored. And no one could get out of town.

Flowers in Manchester VT
After several days of eating peanut butter on crackers and cold pasta with beans (quite good), I began planning a somewhat risky escape, using a driver to go out over a mountain road (we later heard that was a white knuckle adventure and really just took you to Bridgewater, which had been severely hit itself and where the road was also washed out). Then someone knocked on our door one midnight and told us there was an escape plan in the works. A local contractor had built a temporary bridge which he would keep open and maintain for two hours the following morning. Anyone wanting to leave should be there waiting to cross. And if the bridge started to fail, they would close it. No one could return, and it would be possibly weeks before anyone could leave again.

The driver arrived before dawn. We were about the twentieth car in a line of perhaps fifty or sixty. At the appointed hour, they began waving us over. Policemen warned each car that we were using the roads at our own risk and made us acknowledge that. They warned us of crumbling roadways and unstable bridges. We were to cross sections one car at a time at 5mph, trying to stay in the center thread of the road, which was sometimes barely a car's width. Everyone was reasonably nervous. We saw houses and bridges and cars simply washed down the streams. Fields were flattened. Of the stores we had visited so recently in Woodstock, two were flooded and one was simply gone, not there. The covered bridge across from The Green was still there, but damaged. The highway in front of the Farmer's Market was barricaded and we had to go over the mountain to reach the town. Several of the old covered bridges were washed away on swollen streams.

It took time, but we eventually made it to Lebanon NH where we found buses and airplanes. Eventually I arrived in Boston and then home, exhausted and needing a shower badly, but none the worse for wear.

For my part, I have no complaints. It was an adventure vacation. But I do have concern for the people who couldn't escape, particularly the ones who lost so much. I found Vermonters simply amazing. They didn't wait for the government's help or even permission. They held meetings at the school. One local man took care of building the temporary bridge. Others organized a 24 hour phone bank at the school, to answer questions and make things happen. First they checked on everyone in town to make sure no one was isolated and that there was food which didn't need cooking for any children. Today they arranged for supplies to be trucked to one side of the break in the road, then people carry them across the rubble and load things onto the fire truck which takes them up to the market. Walgreen's in Rutland came up with a similar plan for prescriptions, delivered across the Mendon chasm and available for pick-up at the fire station. At the school, they even have cat food and litter available.

Here is a video of someone else in our caravan crossing that temporary bridge out of Killington and the road to Woodstock. Please excuse their language, but the video is interesting. Here are videos of Route 4, again near Mendon, and repairs being made by that local contractor.

Who would have thought all this could happen in Vermont? My friends moved up there after Katrina because they never wanted to worry about hurricanes again. So much for that idea.

Would love to give a knitting update. Lots going on. Although not much was accomplished in Vermont since we had no light and went to bed with the chickens. Next time.