Query: The North Tower Portico
I spent this morning explaining to my NYC cyber-friend Malcolm Pollack a question that I had earlier posed to him, and since I'm out of time as a consequence of my explanation, I'll post that exchange here in lieu of some other blog entry that I might have worked up.
Here was my initial query:
Dear Malcolm,Malcolm replied:
This will sound odd, but do you know if the roof of the portico jutting out at ground level from the west side of the WTC's North Tower was made of glass?
I've read of the jumpers' bodies striking the glass above the portico, and I wondered if this west side is meant.
I infer that most jumpers were landing on the north side of the North Tower, for the plane struck on that side, and on the west side of the South Tower for a similar reason. I hope that I have the directions correct, but you can correct me.
However, I suspect that jumpers were leaping from all sides.
P.S. I'm currently listening to Dylan's "Forever Young," which I used to enjoy back in my now innocent youth of 1976 . . .
Hi Jeffery,To this, I replied with a lengthy explanation:
Though I used to spend a lot of time down there, I don't really remember the portico. I think conditions were generally intolerable all throughout the floors above the impact sites, and that people were jumping all round, but I really don't know for sure.
I have to say that even seven years later the memory of that awful day haunts us here in New York. If I seem unduly obsessed, in my bloggery, with the threat that Islam poses to the west, that is one of the main reasons why. I think being here and watching those towers burn and fall (especially knowing that my daughter was in school two blocks away, and not being able to reach her until late that evening), and then living in a stunned and broken city, under an enormous pall of shock and grief (not to mention the literal, acrid pall that hung over us for months as the ghastly Pile smoldered and smoked) made the event very different for us than for the rest of the world.
Are you preparing a post of some sort?
All the best,
Dear Malcolm,That was my morning this morning . . . and I guess that Malcolm was right about me "preparing a post of some sort."
I recall being shocked at the image of an airliner entering a skyscraper when I saw the news on television. All night, that image continued to play, rewind, play, rewind. I told my wife that I wondered if we had done the right thing in having children, bringing them into such a world where such evil could be planned and carried out.
But the full enormity hit me later, as I began to read accounts. I didn't watch much television, but in my office, I found details on the internet and learned more of what had happened.
I've never been to New York City, and to be embarrassingly frank, I didn't even know about the two towers until they were struck. I didn't think about the NYC skyline in its details -- it was just a bunch of tall buildings -- and I wasn't especially interested in the City. The northeast coast generally was a cipher to me, far from where I grew up and even farther from where I went with my life -- from the Arkansas Ozarks to Waco, Texas, to the SF Bay Area, to Germany, to Australia, to Israel, to South Korea.
When I initially understood that the news was real and not some war movie on television -- and that must have taken me five minutes -- I found myself asking, "World Trade Center? Where is that? Chicago? New York?" I actually didn't know.
But over the days and weeks that followed, I grew far better acquainted with New York City and the Twin Towers and grew to love the City and mourn the loss.
It was the reports of people jumping, and the stories told by survivors that really got to me and began to prick my conscience and ignite my anger. I realiized that something had to be done.
That was a very odd time, for only one Korean expressed sorrow to me over the 9/11 attacks. Everyone else whom I knew was silent . . . or took part in anti-American protests and blamed the US.
I already knew about the dangers of Islamism -- though I didn't call it that at the time. I probably called it Islamic radicalism . . . or Islamic fundamentalism. Koreans seemed to know nothing about this religious radicalism and tended to see American foreign policy as the motivating factor in what the terrorist did.
When I was asked to give a presentation at Hanshin University, where I worked, I decided to talk about 9/11 and explain some of the religious motivations.
Since I had been reading about Islam for twenty years already (though not steadily), I knew what to look for and could use the internet and some of my books for sources. In my presentation, I explained about jihad as the motive behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and noted that while such an attack probably couldn't legitimately be justified according to the rules of jihad, only the context of jihad theory could make sense of the attacks. I therefore spent some time detailing some of the Islamic justifications provided by the terrorists for the attacks in order to demonstrate that jihad motives were at work, namely, that while the terrorists didn't like American foreign policy, their more basic aim was subjugation of the infidels.
A lot of Koreans simply failed to grasp this and refused to believe my report.
I wrote the presentation down and published in a Hanshin journal. It didn't get much attention, but I have it on my blog roll among my online articles, and it occasionally gets clicked on . . . and possibly even read.
As for my question about the portico roof, that's not for a blog entry (though is anything truly not for a blog entry?). I have a different project in mind for that, and I'm trying to understand more about the Towers. I need to understand concretely what the Towers were like and what took place.
Partly, this has to do with my dismay at the conspiracy theories floating about the internet -- the US government setting explosives to bring down the two Towers in order to justify a conservative crackdown on American society. For that reason, I need to know more, but I have other reasons.
Anyway, that's sort of why I asked about that portico . . . and I asked you because you often know obscure things, such as that Milton quote about "a good Booke" that stands above the portal to a large reading room in the New York Public Library.
Thanks for the reply. I know that September 11th, 2001 must have been a profoundly harrowing day for you and your family.
P.S. I love New York.
By the way, does anyone know about the North Tower's portico that jutted out toward West Street? Was the roof made of glass?