When the concept of building the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center was proposed in 1960, Governor Rockefeller chose Alton Burton, an African American engineer who had earned his engineering degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s from New York University. At that time he was already employed at the Port Authority as the lone black engineer. He became part of the staff in planning the trade center.
On September 11, 2001, as Mr. Burton viewed the destruction of the center from his home on Washington Avenue, he was overtaken by grief. He related to me, “It looked like a movie, like a scene from The Towering Inferno. I then realized it was real, and I stared at the scene in horror.”
On 9-12-2001, I penned the following poem in reflection of the destruction of the tower and those within who had lost their lives.

The Arms of the City
Like two arms stretching to the heavens
The towers at the edge of the city
Greeted the rising and setting of the sun
Each new day

The masterful arms greeted the light
Of the moon which gave light and romance to the city

These outstretched arms welcomed and embraced
Thousands of beating hearts each day
Which kept hopes and dreams
Circulating throughout the world

These prayerful outstretched arms
Sustained the wind, rain and snow
They rhythmically moved gently
With force of storms and nature

Suddenly, one day with out warning,
As these arms were preparing to greet the sun
They were struck with a devastating pain
That they could not withstand
They had been wounded
By unconcerned men with flying missiles
Quickly, the towering arms dropped down
To the side of the city
Lady Liberty turned her head and wept

Thousands came to aid the wounded towering arms
As they laid there, twisted and broken
Brave firemen and policemen rushed to the scene and vanished
Doctors, nurses, iron and construction workers and many others cried over them

As days passed and the dust and flames settled
Those same disfigured arms
That once greeted the sun and moon
Took a deep breath
And the steady heartbeats of visionary workers
Began to resurrect them

The spirits of the men and women
Within those wounded arms
Refused to lose faith in God
The spirit of the city was still alive and well
And like a STARFISH was determined
To grow NEW ARMS

The president of SUNY Downstate Medical College, Dr. John C. LaRosa, reflected his feelings concerning this monumental event:

“September 11, 2001, is a day that will never be forgotten. The attack on the World Trade Towers was really an attack on the principles that unite us as New Yorkers and as a nation. A year later, we still grieve for the lives that were lost and experience a sense of foreboding at times from such ordinary events as planes flying overhead.”
During this past year, we have experienced something else—something that lay dormant in so many of us: pride in our city, tolerance for our fellow citizens, and, most important, allegiance to the vision our founders had of a society strengthened equally by liberty, democracy and diversity.”
“ As horrible as the events of September 11th were, they did demonstrate something far more powerful than terror: the heroism of everyday citizens of this magnificent city. Inspired by their example, we will emerge from this crisis stronger than before.”
John C. LaRosa, MD

In closing, take a moment and reflect on the sacrifices made and let us go forward with vision!

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