The attack on the United States that took place ten years ago today was one of those rare events that etch themselves so indelibly upon our memory that for the rest of our lives we can remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we first heard news of it. In this respect, it was like the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, and for an earlier generation, the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
The attack on the World Trade Center had a certain immediacy for me because I had been to New York and visited the World Trade Center just over a year before, in May of 2000. I had traveled to New York with my son David’s high school choir, where we sang Poulenc’s “Gloria” at Carnegie Hall.
One of the many highlights of that trip was a visit to the World Trade Center, but before I went there, I went to the Empire State Building, where I took this picture. The view here is toward the south, and from this perspective, the North Tower (also known as Tower 1 or WTC 1) is on the right. To give you some idea of the size of the two buildings, the spire atop the North Tower was 360 feet tall, the length of a football field from goal post to goal post.
This picture was taken from a boat on the way to Liberty Island to visit the Statue of Liberty. From this perspective, looking northeast, you can see at once how the World Trade Center defined and dominated the skyline of lower Manhattan.
Here is another view of the two towers taken from the south. Both towers were 110 stories high. The South Tower (WTC 2, on the right in this picture) was struck on this side, between the 78th and 84th floors. The North Tower, which was the first one struck but the second to collapse, was struck on the opposite side, between the 94th and 98th floors.
This picture and the next were both taken from the indoor observation area on the 107th floor of the South Tower. In the picture above, you see the south wall of the North Tower, as well as the massive spire that gave the tower a total height of 1728 feet.
In the picture below, taken from a slightly different vantage point, you see the east wall of the North Tower, and in the distance, midtown Manhattan, with the Empire State Building faintly visible in the center of the picture.
In the video that follows, recorded just four days after 9/11, Leonard Slatkin conducts the BBC Orchestra in as heartfelt and poignant a performance of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” as you will ever hear. This performance was intended as a tribute to those who lost their lives on 9/11, and while the video was put together in that same spirit, it was intended also as a tribute to those who survived, particularly the emergency services personnel who lost so many of their colleagues. A total of 411 fire fighters, policemen, and emergency medical personnel lost their lives on 9/11. This video captures the disbelief, shock, and grief of those who worked with them side by side. These are hard men, brave men, many of whom had spent years facing death and disaster in one guise or another, and yet, we see in their faces and eyes that they are utterly overwhelmed.