Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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"What has 200 elevators, 1,200 restrooms, 40,000 doorknobs, 200,000 lighting fixtures, 7 million square feet of accoustical tile ceilings, more structural steel than the Verrazno Narrows Bridge -- and was built for a final cost of over one billion 1970s dollars? That's right, the World Trade Center, built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, as part of a plan conceived by the Rockefeller-led Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association to shore up Downtown's fortunes.

"Now, every weekday, 50,000 people come to work in 12 million square feet of office, hotel, and commercial space in the seven buildings in this city-within-a-city, where they are joined by 80,000 visitors passing through an enormous interior shopping mall below the 5-acre Austin J. Tobin Plaza.

"The Trace Center welcomes visitors from around the world to a splendid observatory, the Top of the World on the 107th floor of Two World Trade Center. As many as 10,000 visitors in a single day ride the non-stop express elevators -- from the lobby to the 107th floor in 82 seconds -- to take in the spectacular views of the city and its surroundings.

"Building the world's tallest buildings involved extraordinary feats of engineering. The Trade Center's superblock site replaced 12 Downtown blocks originally laid out on landfill reclaimed from the Hudson River.

"Bedrock lay 70 feet below the watery ground, making excavation nearly impossible. The Trade Center's engineers imported a 'slurry trench' technology from Italy that eabled them to sink a reinforced concrete perimeter wallsix stories down to bedrock, and then excavate a 500,000-square-foot concrete-lined hole dubbed 'the bathtub' -- exposing the enclosed tubes of the PATH commuter trains whose service continued uninterrupted.

"The 1.2 million cubic yards of excavated rubble were dumped into the Hudson River to create yet more landfill -- the core of the 23.5 acres now underlying Battery City Park."

I'm surprised to find New York's harbor filled not with sleek modern day-cruisers or even trudging fishing ships, but actually galleons of another era. One of these vessles has a walkway with an open gate and nobody around, so I climb aboard the ship like a pirate in the night (though it's day, and I'm walking up a smooth plank without a rapier). Just as I settle in and start exploring the deck, I'm informed that the boat is closed that I must leave. Alas, at least I got some pictures. In my haste to exit, I never did figure out why the boat was there in the first place.
I love the New York subways. I board the subway on the way back to the airport with a giant burrito and bottle of horchata, and immediately can't find a place to sit. I wander up and down the car, and consider braving the inter-car doors. Eventually I decide to just wedge myself in between two other guests, without making eye contact or even acknowledging their existence. I am so New York. Next I pull out my food and drink and start, position myself such as to minimize the mess to myself and others, and begin my meal.

Ebbing out of the city by this underground river of steel and concrete, jammed against the daily human tide while focused on my task in hand, I'm overwhelmed with a sense of being part of something. Not a big part, just part.

Copyright 2017 - David Barrett -