I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City



Big news story yesterday: the soon-to-be completed World Trade Center now surpasses the height of the Empire State Building. Once again, the Art Deco masterpiece — once the tallest building in the world — will be dwarfed in the New York City skyline.

The first thing I thought? Thank you, Empire State Building. (I personify inanimate objects sometimes. I’m like that, I guess. I should probably be on some kind of medication.)

Thank you for your unmistakable design, for your constancy and your proud symbolism.  You’ve never let your New Yorkers down, and you’ve held us up in the worst of times.

You arose from the Great Depression as a shimmering beacon, a modern miracle in an era of hopelessness.  There was that little snafu about blimps docking near your antenna, but that wasn’t your fault. I blame science, not you.

Your profile adorns nearly every New York City facade and souvenir. I’ve lost count at how many coffee shops, newsstands and diners have been named for you. But you’ve never let it go to your head — I mean, tower. Not once. You just stand there, shining. Always have, in the midst of world wars and economic downturns. Even when you were darkened because of blackouts or fear, we still knew you were there. We dress you up in garish colors for the holidays, much like our children and pets, and your dignity never diminishes. We still gasp, quite simply, at the sight of you.

My children have no memory of the Twin Towers. The pinnacle of their New York City skyline is the Empire State Building, as it was when their grandparents were children. The years have passed, but the marvel remains.  “Look!” my son shouts — every single time — as we drive anywhere within sight of you. “There’s the Empire State Building!” And every time, my husband, my daughter and I turn to you, smiling. Every single time.

Like any typical New Yorker, I hadn’t actually visited the Empire State Building or the Observation Deck until I was in my mid-twenties. Most New Yorkers never make the trip. But if you’re in my hometown and you’ve got the time, get on the elevator and take a ride.

Once you’re past the throngs of tourists and the gift shop, make your way out to the outdoor deck, and look around you. The view is quieting, calming and uplifting. It’s how I’m guessing that God must see us — small, perhaps, but achingly beautiful. You can’t help but be swept up in the magical dance of cars and people, and you can’t help but be re-affirmed that we are all sacred cogs in this wondrous mechanism of life.

When I turned on the TV on that horrible morning in 2001, I saw smoke billowing from the corner of the TV screen. And then I saw you. You were still there, standing tall and unbroken. And someplace in my mind — someplace where I needed to go in that awful, awful moment for the purpose of survival and strength and magical thinking — I took great comfort in seeing you there. I knew my city would survive, somehow.

I hope there’s a ribbon ceremony like no other when One World Trade Center opens in 2015. I hope that rabbis and priests and ministers and clerics all come together to bless that ground and the promise that rises above it.

But I will always be grateful for you, and I’ll always search for you in the skyline. You’re a native, like me.

Thank you, Empire State Building. You’re like the damn Giving Tree of Manhattan. God, I hate that book. But I love that building. Oh, how I love that building.

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  1. Ok. Wonderful post but you hate the Giving Tree!? I think I see lightening bolts coming down in your part of town!!

  2. Ha! Ok, I’ll admit it. I love the Giving Tree. I was just going for the joke. I’m heartless that way.

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