By JAMES EIK
Two years ago, I came face-to-face with remnants of the World Trade Center.
I was visiting family in New Orleans on a warm summer day, much like one in Spokane only with extra humidity where even the humidity was humid.
We walked through the old New Orleans mint building, just outside the French Quarter. Sounds of nearby vendors shouting out their deals of the day could be overheard as we were entering the building. It's a gorgeous place, really, a three-level brick building encased in a black steel fence. The basement floor was where metal became usable currency, producing gold and silver coins from 1838 to 1861 and again from 1879 to 1909.
Walking up the marble staircase, our steps echoing off the walls, I wasn't sure what to expect. The second floor of the building had been turned into a museum of sorts, and was practically like the continuous content you'd hear from the Ad Council on the radio. “Turn off the lights before you leave the house,” “Don't do drugs,” and “Save some money for a rainy day” were all among the messages in competition for prominence in an exhibit hall. A rusty beam and yellow police tape down the hall didn't really stand out.
Coming close to it, however, a pair of dusty black work shoes brought tears to my eyes.
The World Trade Center display was enclosed in a semicircle of glass, preserved for us to see. Chunks of concrete in various sizes were placed on the bottom of the simple display. Rust coated strips of metal that looked as though they were nothing more than tissue paper. Some cabling, stripped of its plastic covering and splayed out like a network of dry tree branches, was poking out from the center.
I was in middle school when that damage took place, when that metal twisted and turned into something unrecognizable.
But, those black work shoes still stick out in my memory. They were enclosed in their own special glass box, still bearing the dust from now 11 years ago, making them more of a gray color than black. Laces were loose on one shoe, tied on the other. Those shoes even had a special platform on which they lay.
Looking down, I saw the shoes were about my size. My size. You can guess what my next thought was.
Life tends to be a lot like that exhibit in New Orleans. Messages come at us from various sources, whether it's an advertisement, a parent or just common sense. “Turn off the lights before you leave the house,” “Don't do drugs,” and “Save some money for a rainy day” all become the norm. It's only when Sept. 11 comes around that we truly pay attention to it once again, when we slowly walk toward it during the course of the year.
Yet, our nation profoundly changed that Tuesday morning. The difference is unmistakable: Osama bin Laden is dead, the Sept. 11 memorial is now open and our efforts in Afghanistan continue.
But most of all, a gap in the New York City skyline remains.