I have just finished watching last night’s edition of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. For those of you who saw it you’ll understand the emotion it generated. Something this particular show does quite well. Hence, it’s continued good ratings.
As I was watching this program I recalled an event that changed my life…
In 1985, I was a sophomore at the New York Institute of Technology. I was studying for a degree in Architecture. I was 20 years old and living in off-campus housing. I was working on a 2nd year design project and was in desperate need of some insight and motivation. Like an artist, I needed my muse.
It was 2:30 a.m. when I decided to take the train into the “City.” College kids never sleep! I wanted to walk around downtown
I had been to the “City” many times before but never alone and never that late at night.
After a twenty-five minute train ride I exited Pennsylvania Station and started my walk south -- downtown towards the financial district and my destination.
After a quick subway ride and a twenty minute walk I had arrived.
I sat down on a large concrete expanse and had my back up against the corner of my inspiration piece. I tilted my head back and looked up. The lights of the city danced on the shimmering steel that soared above my head. I stared up into the night sky, memorized by the beauty and simplicity of the man made structure that pierced the sky.
I stayed there for a few hours until the first rays of sun reflected off my new found friend. Still with my back to the corner I could hear and feel the giant structure awake. As the metal was warmed by the heat of the great star it groaned and pinged.
The mammoth building was coming alive for another day’s work.
People started to fill the concourse, purposeful in their steps; my time here was nearing an end. I packed up my notebook and camera, never having snapped a photo or written a line.
I turned and looked up at my muse and understood what I needed to do.
After returning to my apartment, I quickly finished my project. I presented it a few days later and defended it to my professors, as is the case in architectural studies. I don’t remember the grade I received but I do remember that I had changed. I no longer wanted to just design buildings; I wanted to build them with my own hands.
The night I spent in the city showed me that man made structures do indeed have souls... The souls of the men and women who build them and the souls of the people who work and live in them.
Upon graduating, I received an offer to apprentice at a prestigious north shore firm… I turned it down to work as a carpenter for a local builder on
My beautiful muse, who taught me that a building is more than steel and concrete is no more… she was built by men, and at 9:59 a.m. on September 11th 2001, my college inspiration piece, also known as, number Two World Trade Center, the South Tower, collapsed… by the hand of men.
The structure may no longer exist but its soul lives on in each one of us.