Ten years ago, I woke up to a phone call from Jennifer’s mother. “Somebody flew a plane into the World Trade Center,” she said. My first thought was of the July 28, 1945 crash of a B-25 bomber into the Empire State Building. My second, of Richard Bachman’s 1982 novel, The Running Man, which ends with the protagonist deliberately crashing a plane into the antagonist’s skyscraper, giving him the finger as he does so, and the words “…and it rained fire twenty blocks away.” That day, a Tuesday, Jennifer went to work and I went to school, trying to find normalcy amongst the media frenzy. For the next few months, television’s talking heads were ubiquitous as we all, collectively, waited for the other shoe to drop.
I never saw the World Trade Center in the flesh. I only knew the buildings through pop culture. By the time the towers fell in 2001, I’d seen them scaled by King Kong, eaten by Cookie Monster, and urinated in by Homer Simpson. I’d seen Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Ted Ross, and Nipsey Russell travel to the towers in search of The Wiz, Richard Prior. I’d seen Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken land a glider atop one of the towers. I’d seen Philippe Petit walk a wire from WTC 2 to WTC 1. And, shortly before they fell in real life, I’d seen Oakland rappers the Coup destroy the towers on the cover of their 2001 album, Party Music.
It annoys me to no end that the destruction of the towers and the ensuing loss of life has been trivialized and politicized by laissez-faire opportunists who mean this country—and the progress we’ve made over the last hundred years—more harm than good. And I would remind readers that, among the lives lost and material things destroyed when the towers fell were the archives of American author, political activist, and lecturer Helen Keller, a noted suffragette, socialist, and pacifist.
A few months ago, Randy shared the attached photograph, entitled “New York Harbor, 1978,” with me, letting me know that I could use it for a blog post. Today seemed like the most appropriate day to share it. Of the photo, Randy says, “I took this from a Coast Guard helicopter in 1978. I forget the pilot’s name. I met him on one of our Caribbean patrols. He said he’d give me a ride around New York City if I’d get ahold of him and remind him of our conversation.”
“New York Harbor, 1978”, © Randall Ingalls. Used by permission.