Monday, October 12, 2015

An old place turned new

This morning I got on a PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson, for non-locals) Train bound for the World Trade Center for the first time since 8:30am September 11th, 2001.

Every day I go to the same station as I did this morning. Normally I go left to an uptown train to end up at 23rd street since my office is on 25th street. Today, I tested the other train line. Why would I do this? Two big reasons. First of all, my darling bride got a new kickass job downtown at 40 Wall Street. So she'll be on the WTC PATH train every day and we wanted to map her route before she starts. Second, my office is moving downtown at some point in the not too distant future.

I had heard some stories about the new station. I heard it was exactly the same and entirely different as the old station. I heard the stairs, escalators, halls and even the Hudson News were all in the exact same places, but the walls and floor and lighting were all new. I was told to prepare myself to see a place I recognized, but had never been to before. If it was that eerily reminiscent, I thought it prudent to give it a go once before I was reporting to the new office.

As we pulled in, they were right. Bright white marble everywhere. It looked like the sterile environments of every futuristic movie. Nothing that was clearly new or different. Up the escalator and the route was entirely different. I was initially relieved. No haunted steps to walk. And then I saw the 6-wide, long escalator to the top - just like it used to be. This would be the test. At the top, would I go right, quick left, quick right? Would I pass the perfume/cologne shop? Would I walk down the long corridor of shops? Would there be the last Au Bon Pain on my right before the double-staircase and doors to the outside world? Would I be making the same walk I made every day for years, just with a white marble facelift? No. At the top of the escalators was a quick left and I was outside. It wasn't even the same street corner. You now exit from the dinosaur carcass shaped building at Church and Vesey Streets, not Church and Liberty. It's the northeast corner, not the southeast corner.

What a relief, right? I'd never again have to re-trace the steps that ended that fateful Tuesday so many years ago. I'd never again pretend it was the same when it wasn't. No reminders. Clean slate; as clean as the beautiful marble that adorns every square inch. But wait... that wasn't at all the feeling I was left with. If it was the same as it used to be that would have been jarring today, sure. But that feeling subsides over time. I'd have been left with a little piece of "the old days." There would have been something to hold onto before it all came crashing down around me. Maybe if what I heard was true, it wouldn't have been so bad.

Now, the pre-9/11 look and feel and size and shape is lost forever. The thing I was so afraid was going to happen and cripple me was actually something I was secretly longing for. Just 50 yards of what used to be before the terror struck. Just a moment to pretend our world never changed the way it did. Let me close my eyes and make that walk, emerge on the same corner, cross the street and see my statue friend. Nope. It's all new. It really is sterile. I've never been to this place before.

I guess that's ok. The world is different. My world is different. So much has changed and a clean slate may not be the worst thing. After all, I'm going to a new place after the train doors open. It's been over a decade since the last time I watched them do that in the same location. The space has reinvented itself in the wake of the destruction. If you've been following my Facebook or Twitter streams or if you read The Adventures of Jason & Linda, you'd know about all the other new things in my world.

So after we made sense of the new way from train to street, we walked Linda's new commute to 40 Wall Street and back, running into a street food festival running down Broadway. And we finally made our way to see where my new office is (tentatively) moving. To further the rebirth motif of the day, it turns out that my new lobby will be the old Winter Garden Atrium. It was utterly destroyed on 9/11, as almost every pane of glass was shattered. It was also the first structure of the WTC site to be rebuilt and reopened. And now I'll walk through it every day.

Among the fancy shops of Ferragamo, Gucci, Burberry, Saks, Theory, Hermes, and others was Babesta. Their tagline is "for trendsetting tots." My bride's face lit up so we went to look at all the adorable stuff we likely couldn't afford. As we strolled the short aisles of this boutique, we both happened upon the same thing at the same time. She asked if we could buy it before I could even say "we have to get this."

What better way to mark the new environment for her new job and my new office than by buying a book for our new (not yet arrived) baby that is all about this city? It counts things like building, bridges, trains, pizza and hot dogs.

Facades around the city may change, but as a new generation finds its way into our world we realize that the soul of the city will never change. Maybe it was time to just let go of what used to be.

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