As I sit here on Amtrak headed to work in our NYC office, it’s hard not to think of this day 12 years ago.
September 11, 2001 was a beautiful cloudless day in NYC. It was a typical day for me as I walked to the Lorimer Street subway station in Williamsburg to begin my commute to Allen Killcoyne Architects. I arrived early as I had a meeting to prep for. My co-worker (and roommate) called to ask me I had seen the smoke coming out of one of the World Trade Center towers. Steve (Killcoyne) and I went out on to Fifth Avenue to see what’s what. At that point, a few other co-workers showed up. We were all standing on the sidewalk outside of our building on Fifth Avenue and 21st Street with a clear view down Fifth to the Financial District and the World Trade Center. One of my co-workers commented that it looked fake. That may sound crass now but at the time, with the cloudless blue sky and the sharpness of the view , the smoke looked so odd. Dan (Allen) reminded me that we had a meeting in mid-town. Keep in mind that at this point we had no idea what was going on. We thought it was a fire on one of the floors. We took the subway up to our meeting at Fifth Avenue and 37th Street. When we arrived at the construction site of this floor through gut renovation, everyone from the sub contractors to the executives of the company were huddled in a future conference room along the Fifth Avenue side of the building. Smoke was now coming out of the second tower. I saw the first tower fall from that construction site. We left the building in complete shock. We still had no idea what was going on. Traffic on Fifth Avenue was at a standstill as everyone stopped and got out of their cars and taxis to stare in disbelief … one tower down and the second one on its way. We walked back to the office. Empty. Everyone was out trying to withdraw money as we didn’t know what to expect. No cell phones as the cell towers were on top. Finally, my dad got through to the office. He told me what was going on. The partners closed the office. We all left to find our ways home. Public transportation shut down. No way off the island unless you walked over a bridge or took a ferry. My co-worker/roommate and I started walking toward the Williamsburg bridge. We stopped at a bar so that we could watch the news. People started walking past covered in soot. You could taste it in the air … metallic. We finally made it home … safe.
How do I memorialize that day?
I’m not one to hang up museum exhibition posters but when the MoMa hosted a Mies van der Rohe exhibit of his work in Berlin, I changed my mind. The exhibition poster is a work of art in itself. Against a white background, bordered in red: red and black vertical and horizontal bars (plan of the Brick House?) organize a collage of Berlin map pieces, photos of the architect, a detail of his drawing for an early skyscraper, a chair design elevation at the upper right, a red “G” (for “Gestaltung”?). The collage is by Elaine Lustig Cohen.
This framed exhibition poster is hanging at the top of our stairs. Depending on the day and my mood, I either see the collage or I pause and think about 9-11.
The exhibition closed on such a beautiful day in NYC that was filled with such tragedy and changed all of our lives. September 11, 2001.