New York

Two years before the Twin Towers came down, I stood atop the South Tower with my brother looking out on a cloudy June morning. Ever since that first visit I have loved NYC, my wife and I and some of our greatest friends spent New Years Eve in the River Cafe in Brooklyn before crossing Brooklyn Bridge as dusk fell on Manhattan and New Years 2003 on Times Square. We returned for her 30th birthday and stormed Tiffany’s! But, despite that New Years being one of the best days of my life, I always go back to that first visit.
Seeing my brother at JFK when I had been around the world in the previous weeks was great, it made me realise how my home and my family meant to me. We stayed in the Washington Jefferson Hotel on West 51st St where an artist was busy covering a groundfloor room in cheese (I kid you not and we did the usual tourist stuff. We ate in Howard Johnsons, he bought a guitar. We went to the movies, Star Wars Ep 1, I think. We saw the Dakota, Empire State, Ellis Island, the Met and the Guggenheim where my Philistine brother overdosed on culture in front of a video of a man painted blue moving four blue marbles around in his mouth.
And we visited the towers. We walked for blocks from Greenwich down 6th Avenue using them as a compass point, arriving between them. We had our bags checked then shot up to the 107th floor for a spectacular, if cloudy view. The photos show the Empire State in one direction and the Statue of Liberty in the other poking out of the blanket of cloud. We loved it, we were having a great time.
Two years later we were all gathered in front of the tv in horror. Five years or so after that we were struck by my brother Conor’s so premature death. I always connect those things, the week in New York in 1999, 9/11 and his death in July 2006 and while I cannot imagine what happened to those left behind in 2001 I know what it’s like to be bereaved.


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