In 2000, I went to New York for a short holiday meeting up with friends and paying my first visit to the World Trade Center. I sat with a buddy underneath the looming towers and gazed up at them. They almost seemed to touch the heavens – no wonder buildings like that were called ‘skyscrapers’.
We went up the South Tower to what was called the Top of the World observation area. I remember the lift was like being in a wind tunnel – it really clanked and moved around the shaft as we shot up. Quite unlike the Empire State Building.
The cafe at the top was very 1970s beige. And there were smoked-glass windows with a slight curve that let you look down to the ground. In some ways, being inside and not able to venture out on to a balcony diminished the sense of awe. But it was still pretty steep.
That would have been in early June 2000. I can confirm that because we attended the Puerto Rican Pride parade in the centre of New York, which was huge. The musician Tito Puente had just died and there were lots of tributes to him. I’m not Puerto Rican myself but the parade was something amazing to see. Unfortunately it was marred by a series of assaults in Central Park but we didn’t mercifully see that. My sympathies to the victims however.
And then just over a year later – the horror of the Al Qaeda attacks, which ushered in a new political era. I think of the period from 1991 (collapse of the Soviet Union) to 2001 (the 9/11 attacks) as a time when big politics died. But actually, new and often dangerous ideas were growing under the surface. As we know only too well today.