September 11, 2011 in Features

Readers share stories of WTC visits before towers fell

By The Spokesman-Review
 

John Conley, owner of the White Elephant stores in Spokane, grew up in New York City and has had a long tradition of taking family and friends to visit his hometown. Conley took this photo from the airplane on Sept. 11, 2000, exactly one year before the twin towers collapsed during the terrorist attack. “There were just these 20 top stories peeking out of the cloud,” Conley said.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Mary Ann Murphy, of Spokane, has been watching older TV series recently, including “Sports Night,” which aired from 1998 to 2000.

“Their opening depicted the twin towers,” she says. “It made me cry every time I saw them, so I couldn’t enjoy the show.”

It’s always a bit shocking to glimpse the twin towers in old movies, television shows and photographs. The images remind us of a different, more innocent time.

When the twin towers at the World Trade Center fell Sept. 11, 2001, their destruction became the outward symbol of all the horror of that day, and the cultural change that followed.

Inland Northwest people who “knew” the towers, because they visited them as tourists, or because they once lived nearby, recently shared their personal photos and remembrances.

We received more than 80 photos and short essays with memories of the twin towers. Here is just a small sample. See more at spokesman.com/sept11.

Irene Broderick, Priest River: In 1981, on a family trip to New York City, my daughter and son teased me into going to the top of the twin towers with them, in spite of my fear of heights. I remained near the elevator in the center of the top floor and felt weak as I saw my daughter, Renee Keinert, fearlessly lean against the glass of the window as she took pictures of the city for her college photography class.

How thankful I am that I didn’t know that June day that 18 months later, Renee would be gone, losing her fight against cancer at age 20, and that 20 years later, the towers would come crashing down from a  terrorism attack. For all the rest of my life, my mind will connect that brave girl, and those glorious towers, with innocents inside, and grieve for the senseless loss.

Kimberly Young, Post Falls: I moved to Long Island in 1999 and lived there until January 2000. The twin towers represented power. For some reason, I did not actually go into them or pose in front for a picture. I always seemed to admire them from afar.

I took pictures from our boat while roaming around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The towers stood boldly. I felt they were untouchable. I could see smoke for several days after the attack from my house on Long Island, 30 miles away. The skyline may look different today, but the power of the twin towers remains.

Joanne Pos Cottrell, Sandpoint: I was raised in Ridgewood, N.J., and was lucky to take field trips to New York City.

In 1972, my high school social studies teacher took us on a different type of field trip. We left home at night, and our teacher drove us throughout the city, showing us its underbelly. What I remember the most is the end of the trip. Our teacher parked right next to the twin towers, and we watched the sun rise and gleam on the mirrored buildings. The glow rose and rose, higher and higher until the two towers were bathed in sunlight.

When the towers fell in 2001, I knew the massive loss. I knew the area. I knew people who worked in the buildings. When my sister and I walked in downtown New York, a few years after the attack, it was an odd feeling, because there was sunlight in the business district. Those towers had been so large, they had blocked out the sun for years.

Art Anderson, Mullan, Idaho: Back in the early 1980s, my family and I did the World Trade Center. The top of one of the towers had an open-air viewing catwalk all around. My daughter, Stacey, was about 12. Somehow along her walk, one of her sandals came off and, to her horror, clattered down from the catwalk to the roof below.

The roof was off-limits. I spotted a young New York City policeman. He’d seen what had happened and had an amused grin on his face. He graciously let himself through a gate to below and retrieved her sandal. Stacey was relieved, and the crowd gave her and the policeman a round of applause.

Kevin Jones, Spokane: I worked as an instructor/counselor at a youth tennis camp in Boston during my college years in the mid-’80s. One weekend a group of us headed to New York City. We were up all night seeing the sights, bar hopping, people watching. We walked over to the twin towers and laid down on our backs in the plaza between the two of them.

As the sun came up, it touched the tops of the towers and it seemed like they stretched up to the heavens. To a young adult who grew up in a small town in Oregon, I was in awe that man could build such towering structures.

Donna Stroud, Spokane: I was about 9 or 10 years old and visited the twin towers with my family, maybe 1981 or 1982. My parents (South Korean immigrants) paid for a nylon sparkly iron-on cloth calendar with a photo of us three children at the top, twin towers behind our heads.

Even after my parents’ divorce in 1993, my mother kept that calendar. She hung it on the wall of her Virginia apartment, even after 9/11 happened. Each kid asked her for that calendar, post-9/11, but she refused to give it up.

Molly Saty, Newport: Years (ago) I had visited the twin towers and marveled as planes and helicopters flew below the observation deck. Those towers were so tall!

On the way down, for some reason, the elevator went on auxiliary power and took forever to reach ground level. Passengers remained cool and sophisticated (after all we were in New York), but when the door did not open on the ground floor and the car bolted upward there was a collective wail. When stopped a few floors up, we all rushed off and walked down several floors.

I will never forget the relief found in that narrow stairwell. I can only wonder at the relief some 9/11 survivors must have felt descending to safety.

Mary Faux, Sandpoint: It was the thrill of my lifetime to visit the twin towers in 1986. It was my first visit to New York City. My son was to be married the following day. We held his rehearsal dinner in Windows on the World.

We were hosted by a tall, lovely looking woman wearing a white pantsuit and a captain’s hat. We had breaded zucchini as one of the appetizers. I had never heard of that. I cried when the tower was destroyed. Such lovely, fine memories.

David Givens, Spokane: I visited the twin towers on a book tour in 1983. At the time, CNN was headquartered on the ground floor of one of the buildings. I asked the newsroom producer if I could grab a breakfast before my interview. She said, “Fine, there’s a restaurant on the top floor. Just give yourself 20 minutes for the elevator ride back down.” So up I rode, ears popping, to the very top of the tower.

The only food item I could afford was half of one red grapefruit – for $5 (big money back in 1983). I still remember the sweet taste of the chilled, succulent ruby fruit.

Doreen Seal, Spokane Valley: I am a retired nurse. I lived in New York for 14 years. I left New York on Sept. 9 to travel south. I did not know this would be the last time to see the towers standing full.

I went to the city a month after 9/11. There was a black iron fence a block from the towers. Everyone was leaving notes, flowers, T-shirts. I remember one note that said: “I overslept and I miss my friends.”

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