"Nine Eleven" by Kelly J. Cooper
11 September 2002
I used to tell this anecdote a lot, but it's gotten a bit creaky. As best I can remember it, I was 16 so that puts it in 1986. It was Friday the 13th and there was only one of those that year, in June.
I want to say that it was a fresh spring day. I remember grass in the graveyard.
But, given how bad my memory is, it could've been September of 1985.
It could have even been April or July of 1984.
Still, I believe we had to be juniors because we were allowed to wander around New York City on our own. Let's say 1986.
I remember it was a field trip and it was for our history or social studies class, or rather classes because I think several different sections of the class (held at different times during the day) attended.
I think we went under the purview of the class taught by either the craggy, cranky social studies teacher (a man) or per the beautiful European history teacher that every boy (and probably some girls) had a crush on. She was tall and blonde and leggy and very cosmopolitan for our backwoods little town.
Or maybe she was just one of the teacher-chaperones. I forget her name now, but I know where my year books are.
(Oh wait - my high school has a web page. Hmm. Might've been Mrs. Fernicola. Definitely will have to check pictures in the yearbook.)
Anyway, our history/social studies class... we went to NYC on this field trip and visited American landmarks... including the Treasury? Maybe? I remember shredded money packs and a discussion about printing. We might've gone someplace else as well. I've been to the American History Museum so many times it runs together, separated out only vaguely by before reconstruction on the dinosaur wing and after.
Then the pretty teacher called for a hour-long shopping spree (over the protests of the other teacher-chaperones) and a meet-up to go over to the World Trade Center all together.
I found one of those perpetual GOING OUT OF BUSINESS shops and bought a blue leather belt with a built in pouch. It had that hanging off your hips, angled down to point at your crotch look (with a huge buckle) that was so popular in the 80's. I don't think I ever actually wore it, but it made me happy. I felt kinda grown up.
At some point during the wandering around a couple friends and I stumbled across a little church. I say little only in comparison to the buildings around it. It was BLACK and replete with Gothic pointy bits. It had a graveyard in the back, with sparse but brilliantly green grass, and string fences to keep you on the path and off the poor, struggling greens. The gravestones were old and difficult to read from our viewpoint on the path. Many of them were tilted or fallen, chipped and broken.
It was the only patch of green I remember seeing anywhere around that area. And while we were wandering around in this graveyard on Friday the 13th, a friendly black cat crossed our paths and rubbed against our legs and hands.
Later we met up with the rest of the class and did the long ascent up to the observation deck in one of the towers. I could never keep them straight, which was the North Tower and which was the South Tower. I still can't, not really. My ears popped in the elevator, it moved so fast.
But I can't really remember the details. I seem to recall the lobby gleamed, but was it marble or metal? I believe we had to change elevators to get to the top, but how many times? How many floors? How tall was it? Which tower held the observation deck?
I could look these things up, but I want them to be in my memory. I want that memory to be clear and it's not. It probably never will be. That's so frustrating.
We made it to the observation deck, and while we wandered around and I fought off my fear of falling well enough to be able to inch up right next to the glass, we noticed that we could see the church! It was easily identifiable by its little patch of green and its black, pointy spires.
You could see so much from up there. It was beautiful. The city was dirty and crowded and beautiful and organized and you could just drink in looking at it, all the way to the distant horizon. NYC was - IS - huge and the perspective was so unique that it forced you to appreciate it. Looking out at the huge expanse from SUCH a height was exhilarating. Literally breath-taking - I remember the sensation of the air going out of me, although it was probably helped by the fear.
We were young and happy and excited and it was a good trip - a good day.
I didn't have very many good days when I was 16.
Later it became sort of a joke, an anti-bad-luck charm. Someone who walked under a ladder, broke a mirror, or worried about another Friday the 13th and complained ALWAYS got to hear about my perfect Friday the 13th, spent in a graveyard with a black cat. Friday the 13th became my lucky day for a few years.
Now someone must have power-washed the church because I've been there since and (last time I saw it), it was quite a drab brown. I didn't check on the grass in the graveyard and I never went back up in the towers again.
But somewhere up there, however many hundreds or thousands of feet off the ground, where there's nothing but empty space now, is a good memory of a good day.
Kelly J. Cooper
11 September 2002
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