Thursday, September 12, 2013

Life Inside Tall Buildings

It felt like that moment when the delicious dessert you are eating goes from being the sweetest, most delectable taste experience to the sickest, most tummy aching experience: My giddiness and enjoyment over my new life living inside tall buildings went from sweet to sick in one day: 9/11/13.

9/11. Two months into my new life in Chicago, and oh yeah, September 11th still comes around every single year. September 11th belongs to hundreds of thousands of people not just as a tragic day, but as a birthday day, an anniversary day, a lost-my-first-tooth day, as a wonderful, horrible, tragic, bright blue sky day.

Twelve years ago the sky was so bright blue on that September 11th day. It was that kind of blue sky that pilots call, 'severe clear' to describe the endless stretch of visibility.

On most days, this is what my new life looks like: A severe clear, bright blue, endless stretch of possibility. I fricking love my new life in my new city. I spend about three fourths of my entire life at least twenty stories up high in the sky inside my office building downtown and inside my high rise home on Lake Shore Drive (by the way, whoever thought I would ever say that phrase? – My home on Lake Shore Drive - Baah!) 

However, to all of this lofty euphoria in the clouds, there is a downside.

Last night I got caught up in the most horrific retelling of 9/11 yet. The History Channel played 102 Minutes That Changed America, a 2-hour documentary stitched together in realtime archival footage of the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. For all the endless consumption of media and analysis I've digested for over a decade, nothing has ever come close to the horrifyingly graphic and terror-inducing experience of watching relatively unedited firsthand video from that day.

Last night I became a total wreck. I felt exposed with my uncovered floor-to-ceiling windows that revealed the inky black of night. I felt vulnerable and trapped way up on my double-digit floor. If there were a fire and I were trapped, who would save me? The fire department does not make ladders that go up this high.

I have no happy ending to this thought. I am choosing to pout for a little while longer, if anything, out of respect for the thousands and thousands of professional people who had the same thought that day. Like I mentioned yesterday in sharing the post of The Falling Man – I'm not sure what is appropriate to say about the images of falling bodies from 12 years ago, except that they haunted me then and they still haunt me now.

It makes one a bit mad, doesn't it? Why do we humans have to go and defy gravity? Why do we build high into the sky if the evil side of our human nature could conceive of knocking those creations down? I can understand why some New Yorkers struggle with the  Battle for Ground Zero – the mixed emotions that have accompanied the building of the New World Trade Center.

But, here is where I pause. If we stop to question the point of tall buildings, let's not stop there. Because we humans defy more than just gravity.

We defy logic, we defy physics, we defy the impossible, and man-o-man do we defy the banality of one-story dwellings. Is this any different than any other human-constructed wonder? Why not defy water and build a Hoover Dam, defy air and build a Space Shuttle, defy death and build lab-grown cells to create new life? Do you see where I am going with this?

Acting as the incredible human beings we are, we must build. We must create. We must reach higher. It is our calling as an advanced species on this Earth. And, shit, people are gonna knock it down! Haters are going to hate. We are going to lose lives in trying to gain more. It is just the way it has and always will be.

So, these are the words I tell myself as I do google searches for gas masks and fire extinguishers and executive parachutes. I ask myself, Susan, are you going to live in fear or are you going to wake up in the morning and say 'Damn, that sure is a beautiful sunrise and I am alive today.'

I will go ahead and pick the latter.
Here's to a new life lived in tall buildings.
Here's to a wonderful, reclaimed September 11th spent in this fine city of Chicago. 
Here is all my love, adoration and awe-filled respect to you, New York. 
Happy September 12th, everybody.

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