Ten Years and Thirteen Hundred Feet

Approximately ten and a half years ago, I visited New York City. I was living on the East Coast, where I had been for most of the time that I could remember, but was soon to move to the Mid-West. Since we would be leaving during the summer, my family decided to make the trip to see New York City, while we were still able to drive there. We had taken advantage of living within thirty minutes of Washington D.C.–by “we” here I actually mean “my school district” in the form of field trips–but had not yet ventured as far north as New York. So off we went, driving with my Grandparents in tow, and spending the night in New Jersey.

I had no idea what to expect. I knew the city was big; I had seen countless films set in the Big Apple. Iconic as it was, when I actually stood at the base of the skyscrapers, I could barely fathom exactly how high they were. We did the usual touristy things: check out the NBC Studios building, go to the Statue of Liberty, and, perhaps most significantly, we stood on top of one of the World Trade Center buildings. I hadn’t even heard of the buildings, though of course I could recognize them in the skyline.

My fear of heights kicked in. I was terrified, standing on top of the building, even with the huge gap between myself and the edge. But no matter how afraid I was, it was unfathomable to consider how high I was. I was over thirteen hundred feet in the air, on something constructed by men. This was not a mountain, which widened out significantly at the bottom. Straight into the air I rose, seemingly able to touch the sky. It was unspeakable. For perhaps the first time in my life, my fear of heights felt entirely justified; this was a height that naturally should result in a bit of fear.

Less than six months later, I had just moved to Colorado. I had only met a few people, but school was going well enough. I was adjusting.

I woke up Tuesday morning to the news that a plane had crashed into that very tower I had stood on top of so recently. The entire day at school was moving from class to class, watching the news unfold. No homework was collected. No assignments were given. No one could do anything but stare at the television screen in horror.

Death and destruction are always difficult, not matter how involved you happen to be with the situation. I did not lose any relatives or friends on September 11th, but I did stand on top of that tower. That experience alone adds gravity to the memory.

My prayers go out to those who have far more weighty memories of September 11th.

Image from Flickr.

Published by

J.F. Arnold

James received his MA in Philosophy of Religion at Talbot School of Theology in 2013. He holds a BA in Biblical Studies from Biola University, and is a graduate and perpetual member of the Torrey Honors Institute. James blogs on a number of subjects, including technology, theology, and hip-hop. He has written for Biola’s Center for Christianity, Culture, & the Arts, The Gospel Coalition, and he is an editor for Mere Orthodoxy. You can also keep up with him on Twitter (@jamesfarnold).