They say you can easily spot a tourist in New York City. They’re the ones wandering around with stiff necks because of looking up at all the skyscrapers instead of watching where they’re walking. Needless to say, we’d fallen into that category within minutes of arriving. And now it was time for even more neck straining.
Although the World Trade Centre complex was actually made up of seven buildings (including a hotel), to most people it simply meant the immense 110 storey, 1350-ft. high majestic Twin Towers. Built from 1966 to 1977, a lot of locals considered them a bit of an eyesore when first completed. To me they were the most amazing buildings I ever set my eyes on. Standing in front of them for the first time, I remember gawping (cartoon style), at the sheer size of them. Absolutely fantastic.
We were heading for the observation deck and entered tower one by mistake. Although we could have headed up to the famous Windows of the World restaurant on the 107th floor, there was no need what with being full of burger and chips from earlier. We realised our mistake when a security guard approached us asking if he could be of any assistance. “Aye”, I said, “we want to get up to the roof.”
“Well if you gentlemen would care to make your way across the concourse to tower two, you can do just that.”
“You’re welcome.” And off we went.
It was clear to see how busy it got during peak tourist times with all the roped off areas to form queues to the front desk. Today, however, there were only half a dozen people in front of us, and after paying our entry fee we were whisked off in the elevator up 107 floors in 58 seconds! There were some excellent displays all around the 107th floor, all showing the history and progress through the years of NYC.
One model in particular caught my eye. It was a scale model of the whole city. Everything was there, the five boroughs, all the bridges, the water. Every building was an exact replica and I guess the whole model must have measured about 15 feet square. The twin towers were like a centrepiece, looking majestic while overseeing the whole city.
I had a stroll over to a window and got tingly feet while being able to look virtually straight down to the street below. We were stopped on our way to the roof by a guy offering to take our photo while standing in front of a big picture of the twin towers. The photo then got placed in a special display type folder named `Top of the World Trade Centre`.
They printed the photos for you while you visited the roof and you bought them on your way out. All for about $20. Well being a total all in tourist it was a souvenir not to be missed.
It was an escalator that took you up to the roof. When standing at the bottom of it looking up, it seemed as though when you got to the top it just kept going and sent you straight off the side of the building.
I’m pleased to say though, that that wasn’t the case! When you got to the top there was a big thick railing keeping you well away from the sides. The first thing that struck me was how windy it was up there!
Then again, 1350 feet straight up on top of a 110 storey building, there’s going to be a bit of a breeze. Makes you wonder what was going through the mind of Frenchman Philippe Petit when he tightrope walked between tower one and two in 1974. I have enough trouble on the top rung of a step ladder.
Getting as close to the safety rail as possible, I began taking in the views in front of me. The vistas from the top of the Empire State Building were impressive enough. But this. Well. Damn well amazing. It’s said that on a good clear day you could actually see the curvature of the Earth from here, you’re that high up. Looking over at tower one with its massive aerial, the immensity of these huge buildings really hit home. My camera once again went into overdrive. The whole city was spread out below us again, only this time in brilliant sunlight.
I could have stayed up there for the rest of the week, just looking, but we had to make tracks and still had a lot of other sights to check out. We picked our photos up on the way back down and once at ground level headed for the subway to get back to our hotel. And there was our next surprise. Beneath the towers, we were amazed to find a huge underground mall containing countless clothes shops, hair salons, cosmetic stores, and loads of eating establishments. All hidden away under here. A surprise on every corner!
It was here that the ‘Aftershave Incident’ happened. I had walked into one of the shops and picked up a bottle. I hadn’t realised that my finger was on the nozzle and accidentally sprayed myself right in the eyes. I dropped the bottle and held my face in agony. My eyes were burning. No amount of help from the staff could ease the pain and an ambulance was called. The upshot was I had to spend the rest of the week in hospital, and pay for the broken bottle of Aftershave.
Only joking. We actually grabbed a pretzel each and jumped on the tube.
Now. I can’t continue without mentioning the atrocities that occurred exactly six months after we had stood on the roof of tower two. 9/11. I vividly remember watching the images on television and being totally dumbstruck. Angry. Livid. Sad. Sick to the gut. Unbelieving. I simply could not believe what I was seeing. Could this really be happening? Yes it was, and like the rest of the civilised world, I was outraged. There has been plenty said and written (and actions taken of course), in reprisal. Suffice to say that the sorrow and grief felt worldwide involved me also.