Bronze Strength

Tarrin Barton

© Copyright 2001 by Tarrin Barton
Photo of New York and The World Trade Center Towers before September 11, 2001.
James Dean was once quoted as saying "I'm an actor 'cause that's the only way I know how to express myself." I feel the same way he must have, I write for that very reason. When the tragic events of September 11th hit, it hit me all too personally. Each day as the scenes were replayed and the skyline shown, my heart sunk. But like most Americans, I saw the American spirit shine out from myself. While lost in a moment of deep reflection and sadness, I sat and wrote this short essay, capturing my thoughts.

Ever since I can remember I have loved New York City. Though I had never been there, I felt drawn to it and completely in awe of its class, style and majesty of its buildings. Always being from a small town, the tall skyscrapers were amazing to me along with the entire lifestyle of New Yorkers. People who know me well know of my hope to live there and perhaps lead the life I have dreamt of what seems like all of my life.

Perhaps most of my love of the "Big Apple" comes from my other passions. New York houses many art galleries and museums that hold some of what I feel are the greatest works of art. Renoir, Monet and other impressionists can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York is home of the Broadway plays and musicals I have come to love watching movies of and hope to see someday the theatrical productions. And New York is home to Random House, Penguin and other renowned publishing firms. With my dream of living in New York, comes my dream of working for such companies.

As the time for my graduation from high school approached, I began hinting to my parents that the perfect graduation gift for their only daughter would be that long awaited and much-wanted trip to New York City. Amazingly, my parents agreed. I'm not sure still if it was out of pure love for my hopes and dreams or if it was a scheme of hopefully convincing me it was not a place to live. Or more likely perhaps they were just tired of my endless vocal longing to visit New York. Either way, the plane tickets were bought, my luggage packed and a total of 10 roles of film were stowed away in my carry on bag.

The night of our departure, I could not sleep. I laid awake in anticipation for my first glimpse of the signature skyline, or at least a tall building or two. But when the plane landed in dense fog, I was only slightly disappointed. I was there. I stepped from the gate only to feel the immense humidity hit me, instantly causing drips of perspiration on my forehead. After gathering up our mounds of luggage we packed into a cab and headed into the city from John F. Kennedy Airport. Even the swerving, high speed and intensity of our foreign cab driver (who ended up getting us lost on the way to the hotel) didn't phase my excitement. And I must admit, I almost passed out from ecstasy when we crossed that first bridge and the skyline was laid before me.

That week was full of amazing things. From watching The Lion King on Broadway, to seeing my favorite Renoir painting in the Met (another almost pass out moment) from standing at the feet of the statue of liberty to looking out on Manhattan from the Empire State Building and realizing movies like Sleepless in Seattle's scenes are not true to life. We visited Saint Patrick's Cathedral, walked along Wall Street and touched the giant bull in the midst of the financial district. We shopped at Bloomingdale's, visited FAO Schwartz and were awed by Macy's. We paused where John Lennon was shot and took pictures of the building the giant marshmallow climbed in Ghost Busters, took a carriage ride in central park and walked along 5th Avenue.

And of course we visited the World Trade Center. We sat at the bottom taking pictures of almost every angle of the two tall towers. We sat in the lobby and walked through the shopping center. I remember thinking they were huge. I don't think I paused to think of the thousands who were at work stories above me.

Then there was my businessman. As we walked the streets of lower Manhattan around the World Trade Center, we came across a solitary businessman dressed in a suit, his briefcase opened and his head bowed in concentration. He was bronze, and sitting all alone on a bench surrounded by trees. In his brief case was a calculator, papers and pencils and at that moment, it was filled with water for it was pouring rain. So I stood beside him and held my umbrella over his head while my parents snapped pictures. It was the least I could do for this little man, who must have been so cold out in the rain. At the end of the weeks we spent there, I thanked my parents for such a once in a lifetime opportunity. They asked if I had changed my mind about living in New York. I laughed and told them the trip only made me want to live there more.

In August, I headed off to college to live in a tiny dorm room with a complete stranger. Along with every piece of clothing books, my knickknacks, stereo, I brought my pictures of my trip to hang on my bulletin board. Times Square, St. Patrick's, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge and the lighthouse at Southside Seaport are some that decorate the walls of my box-like room.

September 11. A day that will live in infamy in all our hearts. I watched with the rest of the world as our security and normal lives were blown apart. I watched as those towers, which I had stood in front of weeks before crumbled and fell. I watched as lives were shattered and hearts torn. And I watched the American spirit shine in the face of darkness. I watched this all from my dorm, as pictures of that perfect skyline hung on my wall. The city I loved had been attacked.

Two weeks later, as I talked with my mom on the phone, she asked if I had seen the recent Newsweek magazine. Being a poor college student, I of course had not. She encouraged me to go to the university library and flip through its pages. She said there was something she and my dad wanted me to see. So I went. I found the Newsweek dedicated to the coverage of the terrorist attacks and I began to thumb through it. There were stories of victims and survivors, stories of courage and heroic men and women who came to the rescue that fateful day. The pictures tore at my heart and reminded me of the towers I had visited when it was a calm and rainy day.

Finally I saw the picture my parents had wanted me to see and I suddenly knew why. There in front of me was my little businessman. He still sat on his bench, the trees around him were destroyed and broken limbs were lifelessly at their sides. His briefcase was open; I could almost see the contents through the water again. But instead of rain surrounding him, it was the rubble and debris of what were once magnificent buildings. He was alone still, surrounded only by the piles of paper and ash. I imagine his briefcase is full of those papers and ash, and not the cool rain that had once filled it. And although he is bronze and lifeless, I could imagine him that day weeks before when tragedy hit. He was probably sitting alone staring like always into his briefcase when suddenly people fled from their office buildings and joined him on the street. He probably watched them run, terror in their hearts and tears on their faces. And he sat and watched as the events unfolded and the ash and papers filled his park and ripped apart his trees when those towers collapsed. And now his briefcase is filled with papers written by the deceased, those victims of such a devastating event.

The irony to me is in the picture I have of me, standing next to this statue, umbrella overhead, on a rainy day in New York unknowing of what would come in weeks, contrasted to the picture I saw that day in Newsweek is that at the time my picture was taken, I was protecting this little man from the cold rain on a Sunday afternoon. Yet, there he is in Newsweek surrounded by death and destruction with no protection on the dark Tuesday. The harsh realities that day brought savagely engulfed him, with no "umbrella" over his head. And once again, even though he is bronze and lifeless, I bet on that day when all our hearts were breaking from the terrorists attacks, his little bronze heart broke too.

I am an undergraduate student at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. My declared major is English with a minor in Political Science, but I have been leaning toward changing that to American Studies, which will incorporate both. I have great hopes of becoming an author and one-day publishing books. I grew up in many places, including Utah, Missouri, Colorado, Oregon and presently Wyoming. I love athletics, especially tennis and Andre Agassi and am the only daughter and sister to four brothers. Living only 70 miles from Yellowstone National Park, I have a great love for the outdoors and nature. Upon completing my degree at USU, I hope to work in New York City in the publishing industry.

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