I was invited to the private opening of the 9/11 Museum
this week. My husband, a first responder before, during and after that September day, was allowed entrance if he chose. With me. But I politely declined. As a former employee of Union Bank of California housed on the 14th floor of 2 World Trade, I could not - correction - DID NOT want my fond memories of my first job at age 15 to be erased from the depths of my mind.
There has been tons of footage that's reeled in my head of the 2001 events, in addition to my own private visits to the construction site. I know very well, probably too vividly actually, what went on that day.
What I want to remember is the beautifully decorated mall that I'd peruse before the work day. A teen nervously buying breakfast amongst busy, important adults who always seemed to be in a rush. I often smiled when they'd look down at me. And they often nodded in return. It pains me to think how many of those faces are now part of a museum that replaces the newsstand where we exchanged pleasantries.
I recall the lunch hours spent standing in line at the bank to cash my paycheck and then skimming the racks at Strawberry immediately afterward, searching for business clothes to replace the juvenile wardrobe of the high schooler that I was; my employment at The World Trade Center provided me dual identity.
I felt important there. We were all important.
My favorite memory is Christmas time at the Towers. How the buildings felt staged, as if we were all on set of a movie and we were acting out our holiday for everyone to see. Music, gift purchases, hot chocolate.
My coworkers were always so cheery. I remember the receptionist Frances and her rum cake. (That was the first time I tasted rum in any form.) My boss Paul took me to lunch in the Financial Center because he was that nice. I attended my first holiday party with this group of people and danced. Hard. Amongst business men and women who enjoyed my company regardless of my age. It was surreal.
I remember finding out the O.J. Simpson verdict in the elevator.
I took cigarette breaks just to stand outside and look up.
I ate dirty water dogs and sat in the courtyard just to absorb the enormity of the place around me.
These recollections are my museum. They are the comforts I seek when September Eleventh comes up. The files in drawers of my brain that open when painful images from the media try to overtake me.
I don't know if any of my former colleagues perished and I don't want to find out. They will always be very much alive in my mind. Some have speculated that because we worked on the fourteenth floor that they probably got out in time, but what most forget is that Two World Trade was triage for building one and most in two were told to stay put. I'll stop here. I choose not to envision chaos. Instead, I'll picture the bellhop my friend Andrea had a crush on who tried many times to get us to ride up to the Windows of the World. (I was too chicken to take an elevator that high because man did they shake.) There it is. There's the smile. And the image of being teased in the pristine lobby of a place so incredibly breathtaking.
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