My bar mitzvah present to my nephew Jake, born and raised in Minneapolis, was a trip to the city that never sleeps. When I was twenty-three, I’d lived in Manhattan for five months, sadly departing when my funds run low and hoped-for jobs remained elusive. I’d returned many times since, and each time I fell in love with the city all over again. When Jake and I agreed on the special trip to honor his coming of age, I sent him a kids guide to New York, which he pored over. He made a list of the twenty things he wanted most to see. The Statue of Liberty came first; a Broadway play second. Sixth, or maybe seventh, was the World Trade Center.
Our five days pounding the pavement were exhausting, but exciting in the way only New York can be exciting. We took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, with a stop-off at Ellis Island where Jake said, awed, “Maybe I’m standing where my great grandfather stood when he landed.” We ate at the “Seinfeld” restaurant, hiked Central Park, and saw the “Music Man” on Broadway, inspiring Jake to take an acting class. But the list wasn’t followed methodically. Somehow, Schwab’s exhaustive toy store (number eleven) pushed its way past the World Trade Center.
“We’ll come back,” I assured Jake, who frowned over the unchecked events on his list. “The World Trade Center isn’t going anywhere.”
That was in August, 2000.
On my board at work is a picture of Jake and me leaning against a wall on Ellis Island, the New York skyline in the background, the Twin Towers looking like two long, slim piles of staples. Next to it is a small green cardboard ticket, the letters WTC stamped on top; below, in smaller letters, “Viewing Platform/Broadway & Fulton Street.” The date MAY 23 also appears, though not the year: 2002.
Along with hundreds of other stunned visitors, I walked past walls filled with Magic Markered messages from people from all over the country. On the viewing platform, we all looked down at the masked workers removing the rubble that had once been the World Trade Center. Leaving, I took a marker and wrote “Ann Arbor remembers” on a wall. I signed it “Eve.” Then I reflected and added “Jake.”