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Perspective: The comforting architecture of New York

To me, the buildings of varying shapes and sizes represent the hustle and bustle that is New York. When I first moved here, I could barely afford to ride the subway, so I walked everywhere. I got to know the streets in my neighborhood and the buildings that gave them character. My favorite activity was to stroll in a new part of the city and discover interesting buildings, shops and eateries located in various nooks and crannies. Inevitably, I would discover a new place to snap a picture or browse away countless hours.

My favorite finds were the small shops that you’d miss if you didn’t know they existed. For instance, I once worked near the cozy den aptly called, "The Mysterious Bookshop," on 56th Street near Sixth Avenue that carries mystery novels of all kinds. Although it didn’t offer the variety of books found in large chains, the small bookshop certainly had its own spooky charm.

Where am I?

Maneuvering around the city seemed daunting at first, especially if I was traipsing downtown. The streets don’t form an orderly grid like they do uptown. So I’d look for the Empire State building as a beacon to tell me the direction I needed to go, or I would orient myself by seeking out the World Trade Center towers. Even now, I find myself instinctively looking for the towers — and my eyes instead meet the empty glare of sky.

The twin towers were far from my favorite piece of architecture in the city. I tend to favor the more ornate Grand Central Station, the modern Guggenheim Museum or the Empire State Building, which represents romance from watching movies like "An Affair to Remember." As a transplanted New Yorker, I’ve been up to the top of the Empire State Building during the day, at sunset, at night — more times than I can count.

My first trip to the World Trade Center’s observation tower came later, but again I was bowled over by the majestic view of the city from another vantage point. Leaning against the glass really made me feel as if I was situated on the top of the world — or at least New York. Then I discovered an even better trick: instead of taking the elevators up to the observation deck, I stopped for a drink at "The Greatest Little Bar on Earth," which was connected to the Windows of the World restaurant. There I could see the glittering lights of the city while enjoying a cocktail and living the high life with out-of-town guests.

The day that changed everything

On Sept. 11, my day started much like many. I was getting ready for work while watching my morning staple, "The Today Show." Then on television, like millions of other viewers, I saw the first plane hit the tower, and my world started to crumble. After the second plane hit, I was inconsolable. Later, watching the towers fall to the ground, my heart mourned for the people inside the buildings. Much later, I went for a walk on the streets of my uptown neighborhood, and found that the faces of others matched my own, registering despair, horror and, finally, outrage.

Now more than two months later, my psyche keeps wondering, "where did the towers go?" Every time I look to where they should be, I see a naked skyline. About a month after the attacks, I got out the many photos that I had taken of those towers. In one, I had captured the towers and a flag of the United States of America blowing in the breeze. To me, the World Trade Center towers represented a piece of New York architecture that symbolized the city’s spirit of adventure and constant activity.

I moved to New York to join a city full of energy and life, a city that could — and would — shove you back, making you work that much harder. The city requires you to get back up and dust yourself off, no matter what.

That indomitable spirit is why the former site of the World Trade Center will be rebuilt. What will arise from the ashes is still up in the air, but I already see images of a more glorious complex and a memorial that bears witness to those who lost their lives on Sept. 11. The spot will be rebuilt to represent the tenacity of a city where striving for success is the maxim and the norm.

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