Monday, September 13, 2010
SAN DIEGO Before the 9-11 anniversary gets too far away from us, I want to offer one bit of history that preceded the terrorist attack nine years ago.
The photo you see has been on display in my house for many years and it was taken by Ed Reilly. Ed was a hobby photographer and a civil engineer who worked most of his career for the New York Port Authority. He was also my wife's grandfather.
He took this photo around 1970 when the World Trade Towers were under construction. If Ed were still alive, I could ask him which tower it was and which story was under construction in that picture. But Ed died four years ago.
Ed Reilly helped build the World Trade Towers, though he was typically not found high in the sky. He was a construction supervisor working on the subway tunnels beneath the buildings.
Nine years ago my wife and I awoke to the news of the terrorist attack and we turned on the TV in time to see the first tower collapse and fall. My wife immediately called her grandfather, not because he was in danger (he lived in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey) but because it felt like the thing to do.
Ed had heard about the attack that morning and while he was sympathetic to the victims -- as were we all -- he was unsentimental about the collapse of the buildings he helped to create. He simply pointed out that steel does melt when it's exposed to high enough heat.
Ed Reilly seemed to have mixed feelings about the Twin Towers. He once called them big milk boxes that lacked the grace and beauty of, say, the Empire State Building. But people who build things develop a relationship with them. Ed was not sentimental and maybe that's typical of engineers. But he must have had some affection for that building he photographed as it was being born, just four decades before it came crashing down.