World Trade Center "Top of the World"

From left, Jessica and Ari E. Lebowitz stand at the viewfinder on the "Top of the World" observation deck of the World Trade Center, late August 2001.

It was late August, 2001. The location was the magnificent city of New York. The day was overcast with spurts of drizzling precipitation. I was on a vacation with my parents. This was the first time I had ever been to New York, and I was ecstatic. We went to the city on a vacation to see some Broadway shows, to eat wonderful ethnic and street foods and to visit and pay respect to historical landmarks. Today we would be going almost as far South as the island of Manhattan went. Today we were to visit the towering monstrosities of the World Trade Center.

When in New York, my parents and I usually walked. There were always a few exceptions, though, like when we would descend into the underground to take the subway or when we took the slow but sure bus. We never took any of the noisy canary-yellow taxis. Getting to walk through the city really gave me a good perspective of the place. There were homeless people all over, even though Rudy Giulianni (the mayor at the time) had really done a lot to clean up the greasy streets. The architecture all around, from block to block, even building to building was extremely impressive. There were street food stands wherever we went giving off pleasant smells of freshly roasted candied nuts, salty-delicious street hot dogs, and myriad of other delicious smells. These smells, however, were always intermingling with the sour smell of overflowing bags of garbage and the unique scent of the subway drifting up from the grates under our feet. The subway smell was accompanied by a gentle breeze of uncomfortably hot air floating up from the grates in the gum-pocked sidewalk. Walking is how we ended up in the gigantic World Trade Center plaza.

In New York, the buildings are so extremely large and tall that when you are walking, you can't really tell what is beyond the building in front of you. When we turned a corner, all of a sudden the beautiful plaza was in sight guarded by the immense sentinels that were the twin towers. We walked around the plaza, taking in the sights. I stared in awe at the gargantuan buildings, which looked almost identical. The only differing factor was that tower one had a huge pole/antenna with a light on top warning airplanes of its existence. There was a small break in the weather at that point and the sun came out. The buildings glimmered with beauty in the sun's radiance. The light seemed to dance across the stainless steel exterior and the shiny windows. At the foot of tower two there was a sculpture of the Earth. It was warm and bronze. It was enormous.

We then made our way inside of tower two. This was the tower that had the observation deck on top. This was a major tourist destination, being the tallest buildings in the Big Apple. As we walked through the turnstile doors, the enormity of the main lobby became real. The first floor of this place was as tall as a four-story building. This was just the ground floor! Looking left as we made it inside, I noticed a huge line at the TKTS booth. The TKTS booths are located in a few select places in the city. TKTS sells discount tickets to all sorts of Broadway shows. The other main thing I noticed was all of the flags hanging on the walls. There was a flag for every country that conducted business in these buildings. I didn't know the extent of who we traded with, but the colors of the flags were mesmerizingly blinding.

While still in the lobby, my dad called a client of his. During this time, my dad was selling computers for Gateway, and one of his clients worked at the World Trade Center. We found him, and he gave us complimentary tickets to the "Top of the World". This is what they called the observation deck, for obvious reasons. After we took hold of our shiny, slick tickets, we went through security like a line of cattle. Security was heightened because of the bombing that happened in the building just years before. After the boredom of the security line, we boarded an elevator located in the middle of the lobby. It was amazing how many elevators there were at the center of this building.

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The 110 story elevator ride was smooth, but I could definitely feel the gravity pushing me down. I didn't know what to expect, but when we emerged at the top floor it felt like being in a contemporary museum. The first thing I did was go to the window and look down. It was a daunting sight. Below me, I saw what looked like a little brown pea. This pea, I realized, was that giant bronze sculpture of the globe. I pressed my forehead to the cool, smooth glass and took in the wonder of seeing this great city from the top. I saw a commemorative coin press and took four shiny quarters and a dull, used penny out of my pocket. I inserted the coins and took the wood crank in my hand and turned. Out of the bottom slot of the machine came my newly pressed warm penny with an image of the twin towers.

We went into another room where there was a video playing. The deep James Earle Jones-sounding voice informed us of the construction of these huge buildings. In another room there was a really cool scale model of the whole city of New York. There was even a Sbarro's Pizza at the Top of the World. Yes, even in New York you can find bad pizza.

Now was the time to go up to the roof. By this time the clouds had once again blotted the sun from the sky and it was drizzling cool tiny drops. This didn't faze us, though. We were there for the experience rain or shine. From this height, if you stare at the horizon, you can actually see the curvature of the Earth. This was the first time I saw the beautiful serenity of the blue-copper Statue of Liberty. It was a speck in the distance on the choppy sea. Seeing her, I imagined coming here by boat in the late 19th to early 20th centuries. I imagined what it must have felt like to see her magnificence indicating a long journey's end and subsequent exciting new possibilities for a life in the New World.

By this point we had already spent a couple enjoyable hours gazing in wonder at the sights around us, and we were ready to go elsewhere. During the ride down the elevator my body felt like half my weight went away until we slowed down and stopped at the bottom. From here, we were on to different endeavors. I believe that night we had to hurry to the Circle in the Square Theatre to see The Rocky Horror Show live on Broadway. As we were walking away from the World Trade Center I looked back. I saw an airplane flying in the distance, but it was giving the illusion of going right into the building. I then mentioned, "What if a plane flew into that thing?" My mom just laughed and told me that was silly. Two weeks later the towers were no more.

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