Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 16: The View from Another World Trade Center

Inner Harbor Wallpaper!

One great perk of vacation photography: creating your own PC wallpaper.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

You may have noticed our next stop as an Easter egg in photos from previous chapters. The tallest building along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is their 31-story World Trade Center. It’s one of 53 American members of the World Trade Center Association, which in all numbers 317 worldwide in 91 countries. The Baltimore version opened in 1977. Other than intense basement flooding from Hurricane Isabel in 2003, it’s been a relatively fortunate place.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #4: Refuge with St. Paul

St. Paul's Chapel!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

Our overarching travel theme for Day Two in Manhattan: visiting sites we missed on our first trip back in 2011. Seeing the World Trade Center plaza with fewer cranes and construction cordons was every bit as impressive and daunting as we expected. Across Church Street on the WTC plaza’s east side stands the Churchyard of St. Paul’s Chapel, which was closed for construction on our last visit. We regretted missing out on such a vital location in the 9/11 story the first time around, though its most interesting object to us predated that day by 212 years or so.

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Our 2011 Road Trip #27: Sacrifice-That-Was and Salute-That-Would-Be

Flight 93 Flags.

Once it was an unassuming plain owned by a local coal company. Fate would turn it into something else entirely.

[The very special miniseries continues! See Part One for the official intro and context.]

Our next hotel was only a few hours from Weehawken in the town of Somerset, PA, but offered us grand luxuries that our previous hotel had denied us — free cookies, free coffee in the lobby, free stale popcorn, and (in a hotel first for us) an extravagant lap desk to use with our laptop. We settled in by the end of the afternoon, then walked away from all the amenities for something more important. We got right back in the car, headed north of the town of Shanksville, and paid a visit to the local must-see: the crash site of United 93.

By this time we were far from New York City, but no less connected to it by heart-rending 21st-century history.

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MCC Annual Day of Stillness II

Since Midlife Crisis Crossover has only been around for sixteen months, I haven’t had the chance to establish any creative annual traditions yet. I’d prefer 9/11 not be one of them, but I already expressed 99% of my thoughts on the subject last year — answering the burning questions of “Where were you when, y’know, that happened?” and “How do you spend that day each year?” Rather than rewrite it from a different perspective, or reboot the whole thing as a brand new version of me with a completely different sequence of events, instead the link is enclosed here for newer readers who weren’t with us at the time, or for any longtime fans who appreciate the value of an occasional rerun:

–> Waiting Patiently for My Annual Day of Stillness to End

Those who prefer all-new material are welcome to some local on-topic trivia: my hometown of Indianapolis has its very own 9/11 memorial downtown. The dual centerpieces are girders recovered from the actual site, together weighing eleven tons.

Indianapolis 9/11 Memorial

We visited too early in the day, at a time when other things overshadow it. I detect a metaphor in there I’d rather not explore.

The granite backdrop behind the girders reads like so.

Indianapolis 9/11 Memorial

Both photos by Anne Golden.

Last year I forgot we’d taken these, but they finally came to mind this evening. I’ve kept in slightly less introverted spirits this year, albeit with mixed results. As always, Lord willing, here’s to a much brighter tomorrow.

Waiting Patiently for My Annual Day of Stillness to End

My mom’s generation had “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” My generation has “Where were you on 9/11?” Since this blog wasn’t around last year at this time, restating my own anecdote for the record — probably just this once — might be prudent.

That day, I was at work sorting daily reports when someone cranked the volume on our quiet morning up to 12. Three hours into my shift, we were all panic and no work. This, plus the fact that I work in one of the tallest buildings in the city, was reason enough for our superiors to let us take the rest of the day off, just in case every American building over ten stories tall had been targeted for destruction. Fortunately nothing happened during the next hour that I spent gridlocked in the employee parking lot, waiting my turn to head for the hills.

Once I escaped and finally arrived home, I turned on the TV news, of which I normally watch an average of thirty minutes per year. With the TV feed kept on in the background to provide a steady stream of information, misinformation, endless speculation, live interviews with the shell-shocked, and endless repeats of all of the above, I served in the best way I possibly could at that particular moment: I spent the entire rest of the day and all of the evening online, talking to anyone who needed someone to talk to, sifting for incoming details faster than TV reporters could communicate them, and monitoring the myriad reactions at the geek message board for which I was a volunteer moderator at the time. As crowd-control jobs go, Internet moderating is less about physical stress, far more about emotional stress during times of unprecedented national trauma. Whether the members needed comfort, sought to make sense of anything, wanted to share updates as they occurred, felt like practicing their rhetorical bluster, or thought this was the perfect time for inappropriate jokes (way, way too soon — thank you so much, insensitive cool-kids), I stuck around to do my part as needed, however minuscule it was in the Grand Scheme.

While others suffered, while still others rose above to do their part in response, I was at home joining and sorting the chorus of those whose first response was to register their horror on the Internet for all to see. Hours passed while I kept waiting for a few moments of calm that might allow me to excuse myself from the fray, long after fatigue set in. The existing records confirm I was online till well after midnight. I broke a personal record for simultaneous IM chats, having carried on six such conversations at one time while still tending to the board. That was my day. Poor, put-upon, still-breathing me, having to type and type and type for the sake of others while buildings crumbled and societal paradigms quaked.

Every 9/11 since then, I’ve spent doing the opposite of that.

Every 9/11, I keep my online communications to a bare minimum. No grand pronouncements, no attempts at punditry, no prolonged conversations, no PhotoShop tributes, and very few laughs. A combination of throwing myself into my work, spending time with loved ones, consoling my coworker whose birthday is 9/11, and offline prayer is usually activity enough to hold me until the clock rolls over to 9/12, the anniversary of not much in particular.

It’s my way of deferring to those who treat the day with utmost, outspoken reverence. It’s my way of avoiding those who tire of the reverence and insist on bleating about their impatience. It’s my way of observing the truth to be had in Psalm 37:7.

It’s also my way of commemorating the Way Things Used to Be, noting The Way Things Have Been Ever Since, and dearly wishing they were the opposite of that.

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