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Jewish World Review March 14, 2002 / Rosh Chodesh Nisan, 5762

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

Tribute Has City
Back at its Windows | Looking out the window again.

That's what a whole lot of New Yorkers have been doing these past two nights, marveling anew. Some see hope. Some see reverence. My kids happen to see a monster with two legs of light coming to get them.

"The sticks are coming!" they shriek, begging me to shut the shades. And I do. Because since Sept. 11, New York's love affair with its windows has changed.

Obviously, other aspects of life have changed even more. Think flying. Or crying. But windows were always sacred. Whether tiny and grimy or huge and hermetically sealed, windows were our eyes.

In Kansas, people amble out to see what's up. In Kentucky, they sit on the porch. Or, more likely, most Americans just turn on the TV. But New Yorkers?

We look through glass. Are the people down there carrying umbrellas? So will we. Are the folks across the airshaft watching Leno? Time for bed. Is the flag flapping against the flagpole? Wear a scarf.

We pay big bucks for our windows, even brag about them - "You should see the skyline from my bathroom when I stand on the toilet and crane my neck!"

But suddenly the joy of the john or the pride of the parlor has turned from precious commodity into terrible reminder.

"I couldn't look out my window for a month," says Brian Muni, an occupational therapist with a panoramic view of downtown from his apartment. Having watched the towers go up in flames, "It was too horrific. So I kept the shades down. Living in darkness was very much a part of the month following 9/11."

Ever since the day after the towers fell, Alberto Barrera's family has put flowers in the window - right where the towers used to be.

"I come from Mexico, and we always put flowers in memory of people," says Barrera, a graphic artist. These particular blooms recall a family friend who'd arrived early at work that awful day, as her husband had volunteered to take their son to school. She never came home.

Now that the haunting void in the skyline has been replaced by the haunting shafts of light, it's still not safe to go back to the sill. Even my kids seemed to sense this, in their terror. Sure the Tribute of Light is beautiful. But as a friend puts it, "Seeing it shows us what was there that's not there anymore."

The memorial pinpoints death.

"I didn't want to show [the Tribute] to Justin because he's been a little emotional since the whole thing happened," says Karen Skaar, a bookkeeper with three sons including Justin, 8. Her Chelsea apartment faces downtown, "But I didn't think we would be able to see the lights because the building in front of mine has more floors than ours." Then the lights reached so high, she glanced up and saw them bright and clear. "It looked like they were touching the roof of the sky!"

Another surprise out the window, piercing the night and our hearts.

JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2002, New York Daily News