Seeing New Jersey
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The superintendent in the trailer outside the building entrance asked to see my ID. He moved his lips as he looked it over and I could tell he was trying to think of a good reason to refuse me.
“Deutsche Bank had an office here,” I explained. “Foreign Exchange. I worked here. Up on the fiftieth floor – facing the north tower.”
He was still reluctant. “It’s all been cleaned out up there now,” he said. “there’s nothing to see.”
Maybe he was right, there probably was nothing to see – maybe I shouldn’t have come, but as I turned to go, he asked me, “You were up there ... I mean, that day, the eleventh?”
“The fiftieth floor was just across the street from where it hit.”
He handed back my ID. “You want me to come up with you? You’ll never find your way alone.”
I nodded quickly. “Would you – please?” He picked up his walkie-talkie and two flashlights.
He handed me a flashlight and said, “There’s still only emergency lighting up there. No heat either, it might be chilly – take this.” He handed me a bright yellow jacket.
We took the service elevator all the way up and when we got to the lobby on the 50th floor there was the sour smell of charred wood. The carpeting had been taken up and the wood paneling was gone. We walked through the lobby and into the office. “My desk was over there,” I pointed, “by those windows. There was a roar of the engines, then a shadow ...”
“You don’t have to tell me.”
No, I didn’t have to tell him. I didn’t have the words to tell him anyway, and I’ve never read anything or seen anything that adequately described a shattering concussion and a cloud of fire and suddenly the air was full of debris – like a sudden summer downpour of paper, shards of glass and metal. They struck our building like hailstones – the window next to mine shattered and blew in covering the office in glass splinters. There was the strong smell of diesel fuel. I found myself on the floor and Mr. Gibbons ran out of his office, his shirt torn and bloody. “Everybody out of here!” He shouted. “A plane just hit the north tower.”
The superintendent stood by the door and I felt I should say something to him ... “It’s strange. I mean looking across the street and seeing New Jersey. Nothing in the way now, but it’s the first time I’ve ever seen New Jersey from this office window.”
He walked over to the window and stood next to me. “Deutsche Bank is moving back here, you know?”
“Yes, I know. The company wants us to tell them if we’re willing to come back.” In my mind’s eye the north tower was still there. “There were people I could see over there every day, all day – we’d wave to each other from time to time – exchange telephone numbers. It was like ...”
“I don’t want to hurry you, but maybe you’ve had enough.”
The concrete floor was gritty under my feet as I turned from the window. We walked out of the office and back into the lobby. “Aren’t you going to close the door?” I asked him.
The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.