Reposting from 2015:

While I was moving late last year I came across a box of old photos (who am I kidding… several boxes of old photos), and one of them had a few envelopes labeled “NYC” from some trips I took there years ago.  My father grew up in Brooklyn (you can still hear it in the way he says words like “coffee”) and my mother in New Jersey, so we took many trips “back East” as we called it, to visit family.  Until I moved to Chicago in 2003 after growing up in the suburbs, I had actually logged more big city hours in New York than in Chicago.  So I love visiting that old friend and smuggling dozens of bagels back with me on the plane.

I had almost forgotten that I had once been up to the top of the World Trade Center while visiting my aunt and uncle in 1998, until I found the photos a few months ago.  With the anniversary of the 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center this week, I wanted to share my walk down memory lane by posting the photos from the last 2 trips I took to New York before 9/11/01.

The photos start in 1998 when my aunt and I took the ferry- if memory serves me well- from Hoboken to Pier 11, and then we made our way to the towers:



I remember joining a line of tourists and buying tickets to get to the observation deck, and seeing the tightest security I’d seen up until then.  I think the bombings in the garage in 1993 were still fresh enough for everyone, and at one point we posed for what looked like a souvenir photo and were given a ticket stub, but never got our photo or heard anything about it later.  After we left my aunt said she suspected it was just a way to photograph everyone for security, but who knows.  It’s also just as possible we walked right past a “pick up your photos” booth without noticing it.

And then came the longest elevator ride I’d ever been in.  Actually, it was quite short considering how far up we were traveling, and sort of unsettling when I thought about how fast we must have been going.  The pressure changed and everyone laughed as they tried to pop their ears several times and hear again by the time we got to the top.  I remember the elevator attendant seemed amused at the familiar sight.

The weather was stable enough to let people on the outdoor deck, so I got to take in the incredible view:




A year later I was back in New York for Millennium New Year’s Eve 1999 to 2000.  Here’s an 18 year old me, heading toward my grand-aunt’s apartment in Peter Cooper Village, where my friend and I stayed for our trip:


And here I am photographing a squirrel.  Because I was apparently fascinated by the squirrels in the neighborhood.



And here’s my traveling companion, Beth:


Also fascinated by the squirrels.  I think we had never seen black squirrels before- only gray ones.  I’m going to pretend like that’s a valid excuse for spending the possibly several hours we spent hanging out with the squirrels.



Beth and I were photo buddies back then- taking rolls and rolls of photos and developing them in our high school’s darkroom.  So there’s a whole box in my closet of old photos of each other as we learned photography together and experimented with light and shadow, and a stack of photos from this trip to New York.  We gallivanted around department stores, met up with a friend who moved there the month before and walked around FAO Schwartz, rode the Staten Island Ferry back and forth a few times, poked around the Trinity Church graveyard, went to see a taping of Late Night with Conan O’Brien (the guest stars were Christopher Walken and I think some football player whose name escapes me), and munched on some tasty nuts like our squirrel friends…


Of course our ultimate goal was Times Square for New Years Eve.  That’s the whole reason we booked the trip in the first place- to be in Times Square for when the whole world came to an end because of Y2K.  But after a long day of sight-seeing we managed to convince ourselves that we didn’t want to brave the cold and the crowds and instead got some Chinese food and watched it on TV.  From 30 blocks away.

I’m suddenly reminded of a story my dad told me years ago about when he was young and living in New York, and how he and his friend heard about a concert up north so they drove to it, but it was too muddy so they left.  It was Woodstock.  Apparently I am my father’s daughter.

So instead we opted to hop on a bus to check out the aftermath the next morning in Times Square:



There was confetti from the night before blowing off the roofs of the buildings, and people collecting it off the ground.



This is one of my favorite shots because I’m catching a piece of confetti in mid-air while a woman takes a huge bite out of a hot dog…


But a lot of the photos we took that morning were quite beautiful– watching the confetti sprinkle down from the sky and the people on the ground stopping to reach up and grab it.



A few blocks from the World Trade Center, we stopped to take our photos with a bronze sculpture on a concrete bench:


2 years and some months later, while in college at the University of Illinois, I suddenly remembered those 2 photos when I saw this in the school’s newspaper:


Every year around this time, everyone is remembering where they were and what they were doing that day.  I was in my sophomore year in college and in a film theory class.  Our class didn’t receive word about the tragedy so after it was dismissed I walked over to the Union for some lunch and to email my brother a happy birthday, but I passed by the cafeteria filled with people staring in silence at some TV screens, and wondered what was happening.  Someone had wheeled extra carts with TVs into the room and all 4 of them were playing the story on the news- the sound from all of them synced into stereo.  When I realized what was going on I headed over to some computers and emailed my dad if he had heard from my grand-aunt in Manhattan and if she was being evacuated.

The next day there was a student memorial service on the quad– I took this photo from one of the windows in the Union:


My grandfather was a draftsman for a large naval architecture firm from 1968 to 1989 and worked in the World Trade Center back then:



We live in too small of a world to not all be connected in some way to each other, and everyone has their personal connections to the World Trade Center and the terrorist attacks of September 11th.  For me, it’s my brother’s birthday, my grandfather’s old office, and my old sight-seeing stomping grounds for every trip to the Big Apple.

And of course I’m still looking forward to gallivanting around the city again soon.  I’ve got to say hello to all my squirrel friends, after all.


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