Sunday, August 26, 2012

I've Always Had the Strangest Feeling About the Empire State Building

It's hard to believe, sad but true, but in 15 years spent living in New York City, I can't recall ever once stepping foot inside the Empire State Building. I'm all about standing at the top and taking in a breathtaking view, but when I was living in the naked city with 8 million stories, many of them well above ground level, I always figured I'd get around to the 102 that make up the Empire State Building, eventually.

For five years, I lived on 34th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. I walked by the Empire State Building on a weekly basis, sometimes considering going in and climbing up, up, up, but I always ended up getting distracted by some other task at hand. I'd get around to it, eventually. When I moved to Union Square in 2000, I lived in an apartment with a severely obstructed view of the top of the Empire State Building. "One day I'll make it up there," I must have told myself several times a week while looking out the window before falling asleep -- "eventually."

One of my most vivid memories of September 11, 2001 is walking down Avenue of the Americas, part of the mass ambulatory exodus out of midtown, and watching the second tower of the World Trade Center go down somewhere around 47th Street. As we approached 34th Street, I remember fearing the worst, praying it wouldn't come to pass. Please, God, let what is now the No. 1 building in the city remain standing. I spent the next few years fearing it would be the next target. We'd better appreciate it while we can. Maybe I'd finally get around to checking it out, eventually.

I've always had pretty lousy timing. Were I still living in New York City, I wonder if I would have at last gotten around to that long-delayed Empire State Building visit on Friday, just in time for the building -- the one I had spent so many years putting off -- to become ground zero in another bit of breaking front-page news.

Disgruntled ex-employee shoots to kill an ex-colleague before being taken down by the NYPD in a hail of gunfire that wounds nine bystanders. It was the kind of shoot out that you might expect to see in an episode of Law & Order, not among holiday footage. According to CNN, an Australian tourist caught it on tape, which should make for more interesting viewing than those standards scenes from the top. Too bad two people, the former co-workers, had to die in the making of the video.

I'm not sure what the mood is in the U.S. right now. It's Sunday afternoon in Bangkok, and I'm only now finding out about the shooting via my best friend's status update from Friday. From what I've read so far, people back in my home town are shocked and saddened, understandably so. I'm both of those things and outraged, too. How many public shoot outs will I have to read about before the U.S. gets serious about getting rid of guns.

Though I'm living many miles away and have been for nearly six years (my expat anniversary is on September 15), this shooting couldn't have hit closer to home unless it had actually happened inside my home. The scariest part is that for those living in the shooting range that the United States is quickly becoming, that seems to be a more distinct possibility with every passing day.

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