BEANERY ONLINE LITERARY MAGAZINE
THE TWIN TOWERS
M. I. Marcum
The World Trade Center, from its earliest conception, held a unique place in the heart of New Yorkers. There were many opposed to the project because it would diminish their cherished landmark, the Empire State Building. Others were excited by the challenge of building, not one but two monuments of such unknown scale.
The Twin Towers, as they became known, slowly rose higher and higher until they overshadowed the skyline of Manhattan. They could be seen for miles. It was difficult to encompass the scale of their massiveness as you stood looking up from ground level.
Still, many were reluctant to embrace them as part of the New York City, which they knew and loved. Others streamed to take the ride to the very heights. My sister was one of those people. She described to me an adventure, an experience of incomparable wonder. She insisted I visit the restaurant located on the very top floor to enjoy what she had seen. I promised I would one day.
The years went by. The Towers became not just tourist attractions but an important piece of New York’s business and commerce, employing thousands of people that streamed to its offices from surrounding states and boroughs and Long Island. People you saw on the Long Island Railroad, on the expressway, in the restaurants, at the hot dog stands, shopping at Macy’s.
Then on that beautiful September day, the Towers disappeared, as well as three thousand people. The deaths included so many from all the states and boroughs and counties who rushed into the city to help their neighbors, never to return home themselves.
It was devastating for all. We all felt death and grief in our own ways. I drove into the mountains. I got out of my car and prayed. I looked towards the tree-lined hills beyond the pasture. I’ve stood there many times. This time I began to count the trees. I started counting one for every person that had not known that this would be their last day, and for those who knew and had called their loved ones. I counted to about fifty before the terrible truth of my task drove me to tears. I cried for the sheer number, above and beyond the number of trees blanketing the hillside.
Days later my mother, who lived on Long Island, wanted me to come home. I was afraid. Things had become uncertain and more threatening. You cannot reach Long Island without crossing bridges or going through tunnels that were now to prospective targets. I went with trepidation, and when I neared Manhattan after the long trip from Laughlintown, Pennsylvania, I definitely had mixed feelings. Massive traffic jams and delays were always of great annoyance. Now they were almost comforting. I decided to take the Bronx-Queens Expressway, which would take me as close to Manhattan as you can get, without actually crossing the river and entering downtown. I caught a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty—yet more comforting. The traffic was crawling and I realized all eyes were looking left at the huge open space that had been the World Trade Center. It was gut-wrenching. It was as empty as I felt, and it was palpable among all the drivers and passengers who slowed even more in a respectable cortege.
Then the air slammed your senses. It was indescribable and unforgettable. The cortege moved a bit faster. I drove on in stunned silence and disbelief.
I was glad to be home. My mother was well, but saddened, deeply saddened. We had immigrated to the United States so many years ago. We had lived all those years on Long Island and enjoyed a good life. She loved the City, and could not understand why it had happened. Our hearts were heavy with loss.
Then my sister called me. She was animated, anxious to tell me some news.
“Did you hear what happened down at the beach?” she asked.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Nothing is wrong. It was just a remarkable thing. No one ever saw anything like it before. Butterflies. Masses and masses of beautiful butterflies were seen on the shore. They just appeared, and just as quickly disappeared.”
Neither of us spoke as we pictured the scene, letting the image fill our mind and thoughts. We both agreed: it was very odd, but somehow, very comforting, and the healing began.