Remembering 2/26/1993

Sometime in late January, or early February, 1993, I sloshed my way through the streets of New York City’s Financial District, toward the World Trade Center. At the time, I was working as a consultant in the IT department of a Wall Street bank. The technical recruiter for my consulting company had invited me to have lunch with her at the Atrium Café, located in the Winter Garden, just outside of the Trade Center. My contract at the bank was winding down and she had a new opportunity that she wanted to discuss with me.

It was a bleak day, with a cold wind blowing in off of the freezing waters of the Hudson. I remember thinking I wished I had rescheduled this lunch as I trudged up Wall Street to Trinity Church, past the graveyard where Alexander Hamilton, Robert Fulton (and many other notables) are buried. I turned right and walked up Church Street for a bit before turning left to cut across to Liberty Plaza Park where I often lingered on pleasant summer days.

My favorite bench in Liberty Plaza Park featured a life sized, bronze sculpture of a man in a suit and tie, sitting on the bench, preparing for a meeting by checking his essential items in an open briefcase. The name of this popular piece of sculpture is “Double Check” by the famed artist, John Seward Johnson. On nice days, I enjoyed spending a bit of my lunch hour sitting beside my friend “D.C.” with a coffee and a book. But not on this day. I was frozen to the bone and my feet were soaked after stepping off a curb into a puddle of slush. Nevertheless, I nodded to D.C. as I hurried by ‘my bench’ resolving to return on a warmer day.

The Winter Garden was one of my favorite places in lower Manhattan. Situated at the end of a 400 foot pedestrian bridge that spanned West Street, connecting it to the World Trade Center, this atrium was a world apart from the often bleak, windswept, slushy streets of downtown New York. With its fully grown palm trees and tropical foliage, the spacious Winter Garden was a refuge for downtown office workers seeking an bright, cheerful place to lunch on days such as the one described here.

I don’t recall much about that lunch date, except I was in no hurry to rush back to work. I remember that we lingered for some time over coffee, watching the hundreds, if not thousands, of mid-day visitors to lower Manhattan pass by, hurrying away to a million destinations. I did not know it then, but this would be my final lunch in the Winter Garden.

In late February I travelled to Atlanta for a conference. The weather in Atlanta was not much of an improvement over the weather in New York. It was cold and wet. On day two of the conference, a freezing rain fell on the city covering everything in a layer of treacherous ice. By Friday, February 26, I was ready to go home, and I was grateful that the conference ended at noon. Another storm was approaching the Atlanta area and I wanted to get out of town before it arrived. I breathed a sigh of relief when my early afternoon flight home lifted off right on time. Two hours later when I got off of the plane at Newark’s Liberty airport, it was apparent that something had happened while I was airborne. Something big. Heavily armed police were everywhere, many with dogs. There was tension in the air. None of my fellow passengers had any idea of what was going on.

I know it’s hard to believe in this day of smart phones, in-flight wi-fi, tweets and newsfeeds, but I made it all the way to baggage claim before I actually found someone who knew what was happening.

“Didn’t you hear,” said a lady beside me at the baggage carrousel, “they’ve blown up the World Trade Center.”

Shocked, I rushed to the nearest pay phone to call my wife to find out what was going on. (Remember – this is 1993 and cell phones were more or less a luxury item. I would not own one for another three years.) My wife explained to me that while the World Trade Center was not ‘blown up’, a powerful bomb had gone off doing extensive damage. Lower Manhattan was totally sealed off with all bridges and tunnels closed as authorities feared other acts of terrorism.

All in all, six people lost their lives that day, including 36 year old Monica Rodriguez Smith who was seven months pregnant. Ms. Smith was doing mundane office chores in her basement office when the bomb exploded. In addition to the six deaths, over 1000 were injured.

Because of the magnitude of the tragedy eight years later on September 11, 2001, the events of the 2/26 World Trade Center bombing are sometimes overlooked. Today, however, I am remembering the day and the victims of that first attack, a day that shook the world for so many of us.


On December 31, 1994, my wife and I celebrated the approaching New Year in an Italian restaurant in New York’s Little Italy neighborhood. For that night we’d booked a room in the recently reopened Marriott Hotel in the north tower of the World Trade Center. Once known as the Vista hotel, the new Marriott occupied the first 22 stories of the north tower and had been closed for a year and a half for reconstruction after the terrorist attack of 1993.

The next day we strolled the deserted streets of lower Manhattan, walking between the World Trade Center and South Street Seaport. I took my wife to all of my old haunts. In Liberty Plaza Park I found my friend “Double Check” and we paused for a picture. That was my last visit to the Park and the last time I sat beside D.C. on the granite bench. The next time I would see a picture of D.C. would be in photos taken of the aftermath of 9/11.

Liberty Plaza Park sustained heavy damage in the 9/11 attacks, as did my friend D.C. The park would later be rebuilt and in 2006, it was renamed, Zuccotti Park. My friend D.C. sustained damage in the attacks but he was refurbished by Johnson, and now, renamed “Makeshift Memorial”, he has been returned to the park.

I am glad he is home.

me and dc

With my pal Double Check (D.C.) in New York City, January 1, 1995

Thoughts on: Mayor Bloomberg and the goings on up in New York town…

How often have we have heard a politician described as a guy you’d like to have a beer with. This means that the politician in question is a working-mans’ kind of guy – you know, humble, down-to-earth, honest, and concerned with the welfare of the humble, down-to-earth, honest , voters. It ignores the fact that there are just as many obnoxious, lying, cheating, wife beating, dog-kicking, dirt-bags out there drinking beer as there are wine drinkers, martini drinkers, or Mountain Dew drinkers (maybe not Mountain Dew drinkers – they are in a category by themselves).

In spite of being an extremely sexist remark (I have never heard a female politician referred to as a gal you’d like to have a beer with), almost every politician on the market today wants you to believe that he is the kind of guy you’d like to drink Miller Lite with.

Me, I am not anxious to drink anything with any politician – even the ones I have voted for, and especially not those who are currently serving in office. And that goes for you too Obama. I saw those shots of you and Biden guzzling suds in the Rose Garden back before the election, so there you go, right on message – they’re guys you want to have a beer with.

Well, there is one politician I wouldn’t mind having a 10 ounce decaffeinated iced tea with, and that’s Mayor Bloomberg of New York. This is because I believe that he is probably one of the very few billionaires who really cares about us (not just New Yorkers who he represents, but humankind). With an estimated wealth of 22 billion dollars, Mayor Bloomberg could be cooling his heels in the Hamptons, Palm Springs, or the Swiss Alps, but he’s not. He is right there in New York City, concerned about the citizenry’s exposure to second hand smoke, trans-fat in their French fries, and oversized Big Gulps.

By now, news of the Mayor’s failed attempt to limit beverage sizes within the environs of New York City has undoubtedly reached, and raised the hackles of every nanny-state fearing American in even the furthest flung burg’ in the U.S. From some of the blog posts and other news sources I have read, you’d think the good mayor had broken out a dog-eared copy of the Communist Manifesto at a City Council meeting and tried to collectivize the city restaurant industry. “Freedom rings in New York City,” cried one online source. Right I say, don’t mess with my God given right to knock back a three gallon pail of diet Pepsi if I want.

So if you weren’t following along, the ban was scheduled to go into effect on March 4th. The day before, it was struck down by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling, who went on to take Mayor Bloomberg to the woodshed for having the audacity to suggest such a ban. From what I hear, the mayoral beat-down was warranted, as it unfairly targeted some businesses while allowing others to slide. From everything I have read, it seems like a good thing that the ban was overturned. I mean, what business is it of Mayor Bloomberg’s if I pop out of my size 46 jeans. They sell some great looking roomy sweats at Target, Let Freedom Ring.

Not to be deterred, the Mayor is back in the news today with a proposed display ban on cigarettes and other tobacco products. Under this proposed ban, NYC business owners would not be able to display tobacco products in their store. Prominent advertising and display of countless brands of cigarettes on the wall behind cash registers is, of course, a staple of every convenience store in the U.S. (and in most other countries). Under the Mayor’s proposed ban, in New York City, such products would have to be hidden under a counter, or behind a curtain, or somewhere else out of sight of the purchasing public. The intent is to prevent impulse buying.

This ban reminds me of the way in which hard liquor was sold in the mid-western state where I grew up. In that state, way, way, way back when, liquor was sold in ‘State Stores’ (now there’s a commie term if I ever heard one). There were no aisles of liquor in the State Store. Instead, there was a large board on the wall of a sparse ante room that listed every type of liquor in the store, along with its price. Patrons wrote their order on a pad and handed it to a State Worker’ behind a window, who disappeared into a back room where the order was filled. The order was returned to the customer in a plain paper bag. Whether or not exposure to display cases of hard liquor prevented so called impulse buying, it is hard to say. Perhaps one is more likely to pick up another half gallon of Captain Morgan if one is wheeling a shopping cart down a supermarket sized aisle at ‘Liquor City’, than you would in the fairly antiseptic State Store, but there is unlikely to be much impact on over-consumption, or abuse.

The same goes for the proposed ban on tobacco displays. I suspect most tobacco purchases are addiction driven rather than impulse driven, but who knows. Smokers are in more disfavor these days than are soda drinkers. So the tobacco display ban falls into the dust bin of somewhere between ‘who really cares’, and ‘what harm can it do’, and I sort of agree. No one is saying how many packs of cigarettes you can buy…you just have to remember to buy them.

In the mean time, I applaud Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to make us all a little healthier. It makes me feel better about billionaires in general, just knowing that they aren’t all arrogant, bombastic, self-promoters whose idea of  fun is to host a reality show in which they get to fire people. As my grandmother might have said, were she here today, “that Mayor Bloomberg, bless his heart, he means well.”