By Craig Davis, Craigslegz.com
It was during the phase of showing the kids as much of the world as we could.
In the summer of 2000 it was time for a taste of the Big Apple.
Not only an enlightening exploration of NYC for Allison, then 14, and Glenn, 11, but a first for this Midwesterner turned Floridian. So we stayed in Times Square, saw all the requisite sights, attended three shows, trekked to the top of the Empire State Building and enjoyed the sidewalk percussionists who kept a constant beat on overturned buckets.
But the interlude that remains most vivid in memory was the visit to the World Trade Center late one afternoon. The world-altering event that transpired there 13 months later was all the more incomprehensible in contrast to the serenity of the setting that day.
It was a weekday and utterly devoid of the notorious New York hustle, bustle. There were people lingering on benches, and those passing by didn’t seem to be in any particular hurry.
We might as well have been in an Iowa farm town, except they’ve never grown a beanstalk there the likes of those majestic towers. It was difficult to look to the top of them without losing balance, let alone doing them justice with a photograph.
It was a whimsical time in the city thanks to the Cow Parade, an international exhibit of art in public places. Life-size fiberglass sculptures of cows were decorated according to the interpretation of local artists and distributed all over the city where they grazed all summer.
There were 500 of them, and they made touring New York more memorable, the serendipity of encountering cows at random locales and seeing the ideas of the various artists that brought them to life. We photographed many of them. It was fun and all for a good cause, raising $1.35 million for charity.
My favorites were the Twin Cowers, a pair of cows modeled after the WTC buildings and stationed next to them.
We didn’t take the trip to the top of the towers. I recall thinking it might be disconcerting to be up that high dependent on the reliability of an elevator.
It was pleasant on the plaza outside by the ring of fountains with the giant sphere intended to symbolize world peace. It certainly felt peaceful with flowers in bloom and shrubbery lush and green.
Before we left, workers began setting up chairs and a stage for an outdoor jazz concert to coincide with the end of the workday. We didn’t stay for it.
But before heading back to Times Square we stopped at the Krispy Kreme shop in the mall adjacent to the towers for donuts and drinks.
That’s how I remember the World Trade Center one year before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The solemn moment of that trip to New York was at the Strawberry Fields tribute to John Lennon in Central Park, where an endless stream of admirers light candles and leave flowers in memory of the slain musician/peace activist by the
black-and-white mosaic bearing the message, “Imagine.” The kids were well acquainted with him from the Beatles tapes Fran played in the car from the time they were very young.
Imagine all the people living life in peace …
The following year I was driving back from dropping off Allison at high school when Howard Stern began talking on the radio about a report that a plane had hit one of the towers, the first word in a day like no other.
Strange the way the mind processes extraordinary occurrences. Amid the horror of death and heroism from the orchestrated collapse of the largest man-made structures I’ve ever seen, I did think about that Krispy Kreme shop. It was at 5 World Trade Center, and it was destroyed.
The peaceful scene of the 2000 visit has flashed in memory often in the intervening years as the kids grew up, now both soon to be married and starting families of their own. Nothing special in the particular moment, even in relation to other activities of that week, but indelible because of what inexplicably occurred there so soon after.
I have returned to New York a number of times on assignment as a baseball writer. Around the time of the 9/11 anniversary in 2013 Fran and Glenn accompanied me and returned to the World Trade Center while I was at the ballpark.
They were moved by the memorial: No donuts, no musicians, no Twin Cowers; just stark reminders of those who lost their lives there.
One day I will make the pilgrimage to Lower Manhattan, though a part of me wants to hold onto it as it was. But everything has changed in the 14 years since the towers fell, and it has become very difficult to believe in what John Lennon wanted us to imagine.