By Everett Marc Lautin
Four weeks ago I died. It was a terribly violent and sad death. It was sad because it shouldn’t have happened. Particularly sad because my death was not solitary, thousands of innocent people died with me. I provided a warm and comfortable place for them to work, a home away from home. All were equal under my roof, be they friends or strangers, Asian, white, or black, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist, agnostic, or atheist—all were equal under my roof. Equality of opportunity was real for the Johns and the Janes, for the Mohameds and the Moishes, for the Rafiques and the Raos. I nurtured them all and helped them grow as though they were my children. I guarded their safety as my own. I guarded their safety until…until…
I was thirty years old when I died, so were most of the people under my care, under my guard. I was the pride and joy of my father and his friends and his colleagues, as were all the sons and daughters under my watch the pride and joy of their fathers and mothers, of their sons and daughters, of their husbands and wives. I was a child of the sixties and a prodigy of the eighties. I grew straight and tall, towering above my peers; people loved me and I loved them. My doors were always open to everyone and thousands came to call, to visit, to pay homage, to be photographed with me and with my twin. Yes, I had a twin; we were identical in every way, well almost.I was better looking, slightly taller, and, of course, more modest.These were good times. We were happy.We would live forever.
There is a cliché, “all good things must end,” and another, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Well sometimes clichés are true—these two were for me and for my children. Oh so very true.
My father was a son of the then new twentieth century.He was battered by the depression and came to New York City to find employment. He became an architect of some renown and helped design buildings of which I am sure you have heard. However, it was not until three years before I was born that he secured the contract to design his masterpiece. The buildings that would be his legacy for generations to come that would be an everlasting symbol of freedom and prosperity for the entire world to see. He attacked the project with the enthusiasm and spirit that only a true believer in the power of humanity could. He attacked the project with hope and a dream. And as the dream became reality, fame and fortune became his as well; like a pharaoh’s his pyramid would last inviolate.
And like a pyramid of Egypt this dream would be ephemeral, this hope would be violated.
I was born three years later.I was his pride and joy. I grew strong and I grew tall. I knew I was the son of my father.I would make him proud. He would live on in me and in my children. Forever.
On the day that I died the sky was a deep blue, the sun golden, and the air crystal clear; the early arrivals at work were greeted by the rich smell of cinnamon from the bakery, the sound of elevators chiming, computer keyboards clicking, and traders, well traders trading.I oversaw a world in microcosm. Millions of dollars being made and yes lost at the speed of an electronic impulse.The eerie glow of computer screens mirroring the profits and reflecting the losses. In one office there were cries of joy as a thirty-year-old trader was told of his promotion to project manager. In another office there were shouts of ecstasy as two, who shall remain nameless, consummated a nefarious affair.And in a third office there were whimpers of sadness as a middle-aged man was told that after thirty years, “His services were no longer needed.” His employer added, “But good luck Ted, I’m sure you’ll find something else.” I had been witness to these conversations countless times before. The young traders savoring their promotions and as you might imagine some going on to a great, or at least a very lucrative future, and some of them, some of them, well some of them became the middle-aged man at the receiving end on the start of a journey on a road to nowhere.And as for the couple enjoying intimacy with each other, all too often I have seen it end badly, but hey, enjoy the moment, for tomorrow you, … well, tomorrow who knows? All in all the day that I died was not unusual.Not unusual until …
I had no idea that I and all that I stood for were in danger, no idea that my children and I would soon be dead, no idea at all. The first blow was devastating and was dealt by what looked like a friend whom I had seen pass by countless times over the decades. I did not know, I could not know, that this friend had been corrupted.I could not know that this friend was now as a Manchurian Candidate—a tool of my murders. I was still naïve as the second blow came, again from an enemy disguised as a friend. It struck my brother in the side. I could not know that it was even more devastating, even more unexpected.
The pain was searing, the shock to my systems incredible.In desperation, I tried to keep standing.I tried to protect my children. Sounds of death and dying were everywhere. Every minute that I stood and fought the pain and anguish I would help more of my children escape. My faculties started to fail. Soon I could no longer see I could no longer hear, and soon I was consumed by sorrow.
Rafique was lying broken on the floor.Rao tried to lift the now lifeless body of his friend but he had not the strength. Jane had made it towards safety and John was close behind her, running, running, then tripping, then falling, falling. The prior night there had been tears of joy as John proposed, and then, as Jane reached safety, she looked back, but John was not there.She called, but John did not answer. She screamed his name, sweat on her brow and tears on her cheeks, but again silence—silence amid the roar, silence amid the devastation. Mohamed ran through the smoke, eyes aching, searching for his friend Moishe. Moishe had gone to the mailroom where an important package had arrived from London—at least, it seemed important at the time—but how unimportant it was now. Mohamed burst into the mailroom and there, Allah be praised, was Moishe, holding the package, unmoving, frozen by fear. Mohamed ran to Moishe and shook him into reality and together they ran through the smoke, ahead of the flames, together they ran, Moslem and Jew, together they ran towards freedom. The once important package now lay on the floor, forgotten.
My once proud body had been dealt a fatal blow and the minutes past quickly towards my end. Now ironically being deaf and blind was a kindness, as I did not hear nor see my brother die. I did not hear my father cry. I would not hear as I then died.
Yea, as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death… Goodbye to the brave souls who survive and the so many thousands I loved who are now dead.Goodbye. We will watch over you from an even higher place in your battle for all that we held dear. We will pray for your victory that we know will come. We are deeply saddened that other sons and daughters will join us as casualties of this war. But while those who are lost can never be replaced others will take up our cause and again overlook our city and our nation from a magnificent monument over our graves. From Vessey Street to Church Street to Liberty Street the Twin Towers shall rise again.
I once was strong.I once was tall. Four weeks ago, I became nothing at all.