like visiting an old friend: going back to baldwin’s book barn

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Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night, have a passing thought, go back to sleep?  Well, my weird passing thought in the wee small hours overnight was I had not been to Baldwin’s Book Barn on Lenape Road in literally about 20 years!

I am and always have been a bibliophile. A bookworm. A book hoarder. I love my books.  They have moved with me thoughout my life. Even books from my childhood. Books from my parents. Cookbooks. History books. Gardening books. Fiction by Laura Ingalls Wilder to Daphne DuMaurier to Elizabeth Goudge to Marguerite de Angeli to Dickens to Robert Frost and the list goes on.  I married another bibliophile.  We love out books and they are all over the house in various bookshelves.

Growing up I loved the book store at Bryn Mawr College known as The Owl.  The college disbanded the beloved Owl years ago to make way for progress. There is still The Title Page in Bryn Mawr (which was started originally by ladies who were at The Owl), and that is amazing, but for those of us in Chetser County, and book nuts in general, there is nothing like Baldwin’s Book Barn. Nothing.

And yes, when I popped awake in the middle of the night last night, my mind was on a big stone barn full of books…Baldwin’s Book Barn. What’s not to love? A giant Chester County stone barn built in 1822 filled to the rafters with books? Used books, out of print books, rare books, fun books, paperback books, bags of specially priced books….it’s book Nirvana…and it’s Chester County tradition.

As per their website:

William and Lilla Baldwin established their used book and collectible business in 1934 in nearby Wilmington, DE. In 1946 they moved to “The Barn”. The old milking house was converted into a residence for the Baldwin Family and the stone barn became the bookshop and for some years, a country store museum. We are located deep in the heart of the enchanting and historical Brandywine Valley. Baldwin’s Book Barn is one of America’s truly distinctive bookstores. Step inside and you are transported to another time and place. Today, our store is stuffed to the rafters with a treasure trove of 300,000 used and rare books, manuscripts, maps as well as fine paintings, prints, estate antiques, and other valued collectibles.

Store Hours: 10AM – 6PM Every Day
Except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day
Baldwin’s Book Barn
865 Lenape Road, West Chester, PA 19382
Phone: 610-696-0816        E-mail: info@bookbarn.com

So when I woke up woke up this morning and my husband asked what else I would like to do today, I said “let’s go to Baldwin’s Book Barn.”  So to the Book Barn we went. And it was like visiting a fondly remembered old friend.

Ahhh the smell of books greets you still even with the door just cracked!!!  And the door still creaked the same was going in. Still the same smell of woodstove fires. And still the same floor to ceiling books! I will note they still have a terrific Wyeth section and Chester County section.

We went from bottom to top, top to bottom. I bought a couple of cookbooks. It is nice that some things remain the same in this life.

I will note as an aside as I overheard this, that they could use firewood for their woodstove cut to 14″ or 15″ lengths if you can GIVE them any.  There are enough woodstove folks in Chester County and so many people with firewood, how about paying it forward a little?

Here are some photos I took.  I will note with amusement that I never knew Paris Hilton wrote a book. I had a lovely time and won’t wait 20 years to go back. Go buy a book!

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it’s all about the money, honey

Drove by Greystone Hall today. What a sh*t show. They have already updated their website to reflect the 34 acres they kept after selling to the developer.

“The Woodlands at Greystone”. Another preposterous development name. West Goshen Township should be ashamed, but like most municipalities, in the end all they do is roll over and show the developers their municipal bellies.

This development which has already begun as you can see, will litter the area with what? 598 MORE homes for the area?

Ugh.

But hey, when it comes to development it’s always all about the money, honey.

oh chester county day! (and other houses seen along the way!)

Just a couple of photos now… there will be more later…

It was a fabulous day but the poor twisty country roads were no match for some of the “tourists” from other areas. The driving on some of the roads was a bit insane, complete with beeping like it was Broad and Shunk or something.

if this is progress, we soon will be living in stepford

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99 Church Road, Malvern, East Whiteland ,Chester County a few weeks ago

A few years ago in 2013 I asked rather tongue in cheek if a Toll Brothers development was what Stepford might look like. Now Toll Brothers might not like my opinion but since the whole Crebilly scenario erupted, I daresay my opinions are mild when Image result for stepford wives outsidecompared to some. (Had to get that whole opinion/First Amendment thing out of the way.)

Sadly I am only half kidding about the Stepford of it all.

We are becoming a place where people no longer say what town they are from.  They reference where they live by development. Not by road, town, township, borough, or city. By development.

Ok, so that is how you identify? That is your entire self-image? Your development or subdivision defines who you are?

Every time someone does that, I pause.  I can’t keep track of ALL of the developments, especially in Chester County, can you?

As I said in 2013,   Can you imagine what that next  Appledumb, Mountainfake, Potters Field, and Byers Remorse will look like? (Can’t keep track of all the municipalities and doofy names of developments or developers so pardon the comedic license.)

99 Church Road in Malvern was sold off to become “Great Valley Crossing” a Toll Brothers Community.  Here is the Toll site: Great Valley Crossing.

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Welcome to Naked Acres, err…Great Valley Crossing

Once before the plans were approved this property at 99 Church Road came up in an East Whiteland meeting.  They showed up in subsequent meeting minutes which have disappeared from public view on East Whiteland’s website, but I saved a screenshot:

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The date title of this screenshot was 5/14/14, so I don’t know if that is 100% accurate or the date I saved the screen shot.  What I do know is this screen shot was from Supervisors’ Meeting Minutes before Mott stepped down.

I read with some amusement the description of this now christened Great Valley Crossing.  Here is a screen shot:

Heaven starts at $649K++. Choose from four models with jumped up, preposterous names.

Oh the “model” names. It’s like you are buying a car.  So not only will you be identified only by the development you buy into, but will be known by your house model.  Where is the “Tara” model???

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Oh Mr. Developer Rhett, I would like to live in the “Tara” Model. “Twelve Oaks” is so 1863!  (FYI: Tara & Twelve Oaks were mythical plantations featured in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.)

Relaxed atmosphere of “country living”? Oh.Come.On. Have these marketing geniuses sat in traffic in Chester County lately?? Sadly, it’s less like country living and often more like King of Prussia mall traffic at rush hour. You can’t even garden the way you want to in a lot of these new developments. It’s all controlled and maybe soon the husbands can rejoice that out here in New Stepford, the developments will define wifely attire too?

(Hold me back, New Stepford is a comin’ ! Individuality is BAAAAAD!)

And as THIS development goes up and others are in the pipeline, for how many years will the Great Valley School District remain “award-winning”? Hows about we try “over-crowded” on for size?

Here are the plans for this development I found on East Whiteland’s website. Follow the link.  All developments are magical through marketing until ALL OF THE PEOPLE WITH ALL OF THEIR CARS move in.  Then everyone complains. “Too much traffic” “I thought our taxes were supposed to go down?” “Where is the open space?”

And speaking of marketing, East Whiteland is marketing itself as “The Heart of The Great Valley”.  How much of the ACTUAL Great Valley is still left? Great Valley has gone from having fascinating and important history with regard to this great nation to being a series of corporate centers, strip malls, and developments.

Speaking of history, I discovered this really cool report on the PA Historical and Museum Commission website. It is called The Great Valley Historical Agricultural Region, 1750-1960.

Completely fascinating. Have also uploaded here: great_valley

Here are some shots from 99 Church Road circa 2012:

99 Church Nov 201299 church Nov 2012 b

Also found this aerial shot on Google:

99 Church Rd

This is another 41.50 acres of open space/farmland that will never, ever come back.  And as per a comment on a blog post from 2016, the  development’s “open space” is actually unusable flood plain land, apparently? So these houses are clustered on what land can actually be developed?  And what will the “roads” of this development look like? Will they be wide enough?

And let us not forget in just this part of Chester County, there is OTHER development happening the Great Valley School District…not just East Whiteland, although East Whiteland has the lion’s share. (Refer to this post from early August, 2018)

I will ask again, and keep asking: Chester County residents, do you want the entire county to look like this?  Didn’t some of you move out here to escape this in the first place?

Signing off from Happy Dell Acres (no, not a real place that I know of but I feel like I have to give the area where I live it’s official dumb development name.)

 

asking again in 2018: don’t we have enough billboards in chester county already?

In September, 2017 I asked the question of didn’t we have enough billboards already in Chester County when West Whiteland residents became aware of the desire for the Billboard Baron who spent years having residents from Lower Merion and Haverford Townships attend billboard hearings because he wanted billboards in Bryn Mawr along Lancaster Avenue across from Our Mother of Good Counsel Church for one location. Then there was the whole Lower Merion billboard issue near Bryn Mawr Hospital. This has all been well documented in the media over the years.

A little closer to home for us in Chester County, in addition to whatever happened or hasn’t happened or will happen in West Whiteland, Tredyffrin is now tag you are in in the municipal game of billboards.

Community Matters/Pattye Benson: Proposed digital billboard and demolition of R. Brognard Okie building – Tredyffrin Township, is this progress?

So this is the little Clockworks Building:

clockworks

I love this place!  It and this place not too far away (next photo below) have always captured my imagination:

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These little bits of our history are little architectural gems that dot our landscape.  And Clockworks is an Okie! (Iknow nothing about the other little building and how it came to be.)

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Ok so this isn’t my circus in Tredyffrin, I don’t live in Tredyffrin, but I don’t care if the billboards are digital or SMD (surface mount diodes) or platinum encased Lincoln Logs, at what point are there enough? This is at a crazy intersection of a densely populated area. WHY?????

If you listen to the Tredyffrin township meeting recording (and who knows how long this stays on line) it sounds like this presentation occured as part of some litigation settlement agreement? Something like Tredyffrin was threatened with litigation over the way they treat billboards by the billboard company?

So yo Tredyffrin, even Phoenixville fought the billboards. And they WON:

Billboard baron loses fight over Phoenixville zoning
By Michael P. Rellahan mrellahan@21st-centurymedia.com May 28, 2014

WEST CHESTER – A Chester County Court judge dismissed a Philadelphia-area billboard baron’s challenge to the Phoenixville zoning ordinance that he claimed improperly excluded such signs from the borough.

In a May 20 ruling, Common Pleas Court Judge Mark Tunnell upheld the ruling by the borough’s zoning hearing board, finding that the zoning ordinance did allow for billboards and other large outdoor signs to be erected, just not in the location that Thaddeus Bartkowski III and his company, Chester County Outdoor, wanted to erect them.

Bartkowski had filed a substantive validity challenge to the ordinance in 2011, claiming that it unconstitutionally prohibited a type of business from the borough. In 2012, the zoning board ruled against Bartkowski, finding that the types of signs he wanted to erect were a permitted use, even if they were not specifically identified.

It makes you wonder sometimes in these situations whose rights are valued more, doesn’t it? But if Phoenixville could prevail, I am thinking so could Tredyffrin’s solicitor if challenged?

Below is a screen capture from the televised presentation and is this what you want people of Tredyffrin? I will leave you with that image. I put an arrow as to where Clockworks would be removed from.   I vote for Clockworks but I don’t live in Tredyffrin, so that is just my opinion.

I hope the residents of Tredyffrin step forward to preserve their own special historical gateways once again. (Tredyffrin might wish to check out a website called Scenic Philadelphia  and Preserve Our PA Towns /  No Billboards in the Burbs.)

I leave you with a fun fact: Maine is one of a handful of states (Maine, Vermont, Hawaii, Alaska)  that exist just fine without billboards so why can’t we?

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from anita hill to christine blasey ford

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I am watching Christine Blasey Ford give her opening statement.  As women we are all wired differently, but in my humble opinion this this woman is not lying. She is telling and reliving her truth on national television. (CLICK HERE not sure if link will change.)

When as a country do we stop blaming and shaming victims of any form of assault? This woman has been the target of harassment and death threats since she came forward? She and her family have had to MOVE OUT of their home? Her email was hacked this week?

She says “my responsibility is to tell the truth.”

I have watched the emotions run across this poor woman’s face.  I will note that while not consistently a Senator Diane Feinstein fan, I thought she was magnificent this morning.

I also thought Senator Chuck Grassley was a veritable tool in his opening remarks. He has been a tool consistently throughout. Senator Patrick Leahy just made me tear up when he said to Dr. Ford “We owe you a debt of gratitude…bravery is contagious.”

I remember watching what happened to Dr. Anita Hill vividly in 1991.  She has been quoted recently as stating :

“Access to equal justice for all is what was at stake in 1991, and it’s what’s at stake now,” said Hill, now 62 and a professor at Brandeis University.

A friend of mine recently said on Facebook:

For me, the striking thing about the reports of the (alleged) actions and behavior of  Kavanaugh & peers in the 80’s is how utterly unsurprising and familiar the stories are and how much I took such behavior for granted as normal throughout my high school, college, and twenty-something years.

Philadelphia’s Main Line prep schools are not very different from those in the suburbs of DC. In the 80’s …we marinated in a pretty formidable testosterone stew, and the drunken, groping party scene among the schools was the reality I knew. For the most part I stayed out of the fray, but certainly had moments in the heart of it all – it may have been luck that I wasn’t assaulted, but I’m aware of female peers who were and who still feel the impact today, even if they never reported anything. I’m familiar with some of the men I was told were perpetrators, who now are stable, engaged, contributing citizens who may not remember or even be aware of the impact of their actions years ago.

When I arrived at my traditional, predominantly male college, the drunken, groping fraternity party scene didn’t faze me since it corresponded to the social scene I knew, and was one in which I willingly participated. As in high school I mostly avoided assaults that some other women experienced, until the one time that I, dead sober on a weekday night, bumped into a male friend who was wasted, who wasn’t convinced that I didn’t want to hook up with him, who pinned me to the ground until I managed to push him off and run away. It’s just about the most scared I’ve ever been around another person – I can imagine the feelings of fear and panic and lack of control that Christine Blasey Ford may have felt – and avoided him for the next few weeks, yet I never went to campus police and may have only told one or two people at the time. Later the guy apologized to me profusely and sincerely. I believed him that he had scared himself as much as he had scared me. We remain friends and is someone I like, admire, and appreciate to this day. Not every woman at college was so fortunate.

Pledge season involved a lot of male nudity; it wasn’t unusual each spring to find myself on the dance floor with some drunken, naked guys (who by that point may have become so numb and inured to public nudity they didn’t think twice about stripping down). I thought it was adventurous and funny; in retrospect now I can imagine how unsettling or upsetting it may have been for others at the fraternity party. From my perspective at that point, that’s just the way it was – that was normal.

Looking back at this culture through the lens of 30+ years of maturation and experience, I feel a little like the proverbial frog in boiling water – if I had been dropped in, I might have jumped right back out, but having been immersed in it as it slowly heated up, I never noticed that anything might be amiss. For whatever reasons – obliviousness, immaturity, desire for social acceptance, preponderant male power and privilege, entrenched social mores – it rarely occurred to me to question what we then accepted as the norm. Others may have been more mature or enlightened far earlier than I. It’s taken me longer to wake up and recognize it as unhealthy and harmful. Waving your penis drunkenly in someone’s face (it’s surely happened somewhere, whether officially witnessed, reported, and documented at Yale in the 1980’s or not) is not funny or acceptable. It’s boorish and threatening, and also probably really unattractive. (Sorry guys – penises are usually pretty ugly!)

So there’s no real moral to my tale, just an observational outpouring based on my experience as a white, heterosexual, overly-educated woman of privilege who has lived primarily in affluent parts of America. The issues that have been raised by Me Too, Why I Didn’t Report, Time’s Up, and ongoing stories that shed light on the pervasive nature of sexual misconduct, assault, and crimes in our culture are bigger and broader than just my tiny little slice of life.

The stories being told by the women speaking out against Brett Kavanaugh, though, speak to a specific milieu I recognize. He may well be an intelligent, accomplished professional, a man of faith, a pillar of the community, and a devoted husband and father, but he could also have been an asshole as a teenager, especially when drunk, who casually and cavalierly exercised his entitled belief that girls were prey to be conquered or trophies to be won while glorying in his alpha male dominance and sexual prowess.

I don’t know him and I don’t know if that’s the case, but, if true, the actions outlined by his accusers fit a profile that I find fully believable and very likely possible. For this and many other reasons it really chaps my hide that a bunch of desiccated, crotchety, superannuated white guys are trying to force through a vote without some semblance of sensitivity to the nuances of the situation. There is nothing easy here, and it burns me up that the response by some of those elected to lead our country is to say, essentially, “hush now – stop making a fuss over nothing and let us go ahead and do what we want.”  Wonder how a younger generation of men may ever have picked up the notion that they might be entitled to casually and cavalierly conquer, belittle, and suppress women while glorying in their alpha male dominance. It shouldn’t be normal.

I shared my friend’s post because she is right.

As I was a few years ahead of her in high school, don’t think similar thoughts haven’t crossed my mind when it comes to the conversations which persist about Supreme Court nominee Kavanugh as yet another woman comes forward. (Since I wrote this yet another woman has come forward I will note for the record.)

Thinking about all the parties from high school forward and thinking about times even as a young adult in my early 20s having to dodge this total tool who tried to trap me in someone’s parents’ bedroom coming out of the bathroom at a party I completely agree.

Being slammed up against a wall of a bedroom like that was not sexy or fun, it was terrifying.

All I remember about that were thoughts racing through my head that I had to get out of there and telling myself I couldn’t afford to panic. I was able to knee the guy in the crotch to get away. I can still see the draperies, the coverlet and canopy of this now long gone proper Main Line master bedroom. I can tell you the bathroom I used was the interior master en suite bathroom in the back of the bedroom.

Most of us have stories like this from our single days. The funny thing is I don’t actually know many women who don’t have at least one of these stories, if not more. Most of us, myself included, have multiple stories. Suffice it to say, it was an experience I had as a teenager which propelled me in my twenties to just get out of that room.

Being raised by mothers who just expected us to be good and proper girls, did not actually prepare us for the reality of it all growing up. And how many of us had mothers we felt we could truthfully discuss these issues with? I love my mother but I know I couldn’t discuss it with her. I still couldn’t.

Back then, women/girls were blamed first. It was always “what did you do?” not “Oh my God, what can we do to make this right?” Even today, the initial knee-jerk reaction is to blame the women/girls first instead of listening.

Not all of us want to talk about these incidents. Because back then if you talked about them it was also whispered that you were “fast” or “easy”. The guys in this equation were just sort of patted on the back and sent on their way. It was expected, and almost condoned behavior. Just “boys being boys” only it never felt that way if you were on the receiving end.

I also remember the stories of college girls when I was a freshman who were supposedly “trained” by fraternity brothers when I was in college. “Riding the Train” of course today would be called gang rape. Back then it meant they all lined up and took turns. They would ruin a girl’s reputation but what they in fact did was commit gang rape. These things were whispered about, not reported.  We learned whom to avoid and what parties we probably should avoid. But the “boys” persisted.

Stories range from attempted assault to rape. And then there are all the women who won’t talk about what happened to them. Ever. Or not for decades.  Some women deal with it in therapy or somehow push through it.  And there are those who never dealt with these issues and what happened to them has continued to play a part in their now adult lives. Because as a society we don’t deal with these patterns of behavior, they persist to future generations. Maybe you will disagree with me, but those are personal observations.

And I don’t think as a society we can judge people for waiting however many years before they come forward. These were traumatic events and they have triggers. People can bury these things in their subconscious for years, until there comes a point in time or something triggers a memory and they all come flooding forward. And then it’s like these women have to live it all over again because they didn’t deal with it in the first place. And a lot of the times they didn’t deal with it in the first place because as a society we’ve only just started becoming supportive. As a society, we did not used to be so supportive.

Jessica Knolls’ book Luckiest Girl Alive comes to mind. It is kind of the way it was, although factionalized. Here is a New York Times article discussing the impetus:

 Jessica Knoll Reveals the Rape Behind Her Novel, ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’  

By Alexandra Alter
March 29, 2016

….She is no longer dodging those questions. On Tuesday, Ms. Knoll published a raw and chilling essay describing how the gang rape depicted in her novel was drawn from her own experience in high school, when she was sexually assaulted by three boys at a party, and then tormented by classmates who labeled her a slut.

“I was so conditioned to not talk about it that it didn’t even occur to me to be forthcoming,” Ms. Knoll said during a recent interview at her publisher’s office in Midtown Manhattan. “I want to make people feel like they can talk about it, like they don’t have to be ashamed of it.”

Anyway, I think these women deserve to be heard. I also think they should not be judged about how long it took them to come forward.

Societally, this is something that women are NOT supposed to talk about in public.(Just Google #WhyIDidntTell And while there are a lot of people who have used the #MeToo movement for personal gain, and there are plenty of women who were not truthful and cried wolf, it has also given a lot of women a voice that is long overdue.

I will also note I have a problem with women who cry wolf. Women who fake it in this category are reprehensible. They make it more difficult for actual victims of abuse to come forward and even be heard.  Sadly, my gut reaction to this whole scenario now unfolding on a national and international stage is still that I believe these women.

If you ever experienced anything like what these women are recounting, sorry not sorry, you know. You know because you experienced what has been pshawed off for far too long in this country as if not acceptable but almost expected as a rite of passage.

Anita HillThere is a recent Huffington Post piece that I think should be checked out:

Huffington Post U.S. NEWS 09/21/2018 02:26 pm ET
Rape Survivors Share Why They Stayed Quiet In Powerful #WhyIDidntReport Tweets
President Donald Trump tried to bolster Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by challenging sexual assault survivors who didn’t immediately call the police.
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By Ryan Grenoble

I also read this piece on The Cut:

THE BODY POLITIC SEPT. 24, 2018
When the Muzzle Comes Off
By Rebecca Traister

Watching these proceedings as they unfold today I am struck by the two lines of questioning: legal questioning by the legal expert Rachel Mitchell constantly interrupted by some absurd five-minute rule by I can’t desacribe as other than politics.

Dr. Ford was asked one of the things she remembers most, remembers vividly.  She responded the laughing.  Sorry, I remember being a teenage girl and right or wrong, and while boys might block it out, or compartmentailze it away, girls remember the laughter.

Being laughed at or about is something you do not really forget. You grow up, you move on (or should if you can), but you do remember. We learn from our own personal histories just like we learn from actual history. However this shakes out, we need to be different in this country.  It’s not about the political correctness police running amok, it’s a question of respect.

Whatever happens today, I hope it’s not another Anita Hill scenario.  For both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, put the politics down and get to the truth. Waht an ugly time we live in.

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9/11 : 17 years. never forget.

It’s 8:45 AM and 8:46 AM the moment of silence at the World Trade Center Memorial in NYC begins.

17 years ago today, everything changed. 2983 people lost their lives.

On February 23, 1993 there was the first attack on the World Trade Center. 25 years ago.

The years move away from the dates, but we never forget. They are literally dates which live in our minds in infamy. To paraphrase FDR, who was in his time, referring to Pearl Harbor.

The photo this post opens with is one I took this summer and it is the controversial 9/11 Memorial in New Jersey. Known as the “teardrop memorial”, it is located in Bayonne. I think it has a kind of strength and beauty to it.

On the anniversary of 9/11 in 2012 I was invited to ride in my friend Barry’s American flag hot air balloon over Chester County. As we left on our hot air balloon flight when I looked down this is what I saw:

This is what they were looking at and what I saw looking up:

I am forever grateful to my friend Barry because this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that was deeply meaningful and I shall never forget it.

In the last 17 years our country has gone through crazy times, perhaps none more so than today. But we have to take a moment and pause and remember all those Americans who lost their lives for our freedoms. Because even if they did not die on a battlefield or in combat, they died for all of us.

I will close with a reader’s editorial I wrote for the then editor of Main Line Life, Tom Murray. Folks in Chester County will remember him as the editor of The Daily Local before he passed away.

I wrote this piece in 2006:

Sept. 11, 2006, is the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and United Airlines Flight 93’s crash in the field in Shanksville, Somerset County. This date has special significance to every American, and intense personal significance to far too many individuals who lost friends and loved ones.

But September 11, wasn’t the first time terrorists visited the World Trade Center. In truth, Feb. 26, 1993. was the date of the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. I worked in New York at that time at an office located downtown in the financial district.

On that day, I had accompanied an office friend to the World Trade Center to grab an early lunch and to check out some stores in the shopping concourse. We were back outside the Trade Center buildings, getting ready to cross the street, when suddenly the ground shook and moved. I remember that we were looking directly across the street at Century 21, a department store in Lower Manhattan. Then something happened that rarely happens in New York: Everything went eerily still and quiet. We looked up at what we first thought were snowflakes beginning to float and fall from the sky. After all, it was February. Then car alarms began to go off one by one like the cacophony of many distorted bells. The snowflakes, we soon discovered, were in reality ashes.

People began yelling and screaming. It became very confusing and chaotic all at once, like someone flipped a switch to “on.” At first, we both felt rooted to the sidewalk, unable to move. I remember feeling a sense of panic at the unknown. We had absolutely no idea what had happened, and hurried back to our office. Reaching it, we were greeted by worried coworkers who told us that someone had set off a bomb underground in the World Trade Center garage.

I will never forget the crazy kaleidoscope of images, throughout that afternoon, of all the people who were related to or knew people in my office who sought refuge in our office after walking down the innumerable flights of steps in the dark to exit the World Trade Center Towers. They arrived with soot all over their faces, hands and clothes. They all wore zombie looks of shock, disbelief and panic.

Of course, the oddest thing about the first terrorist attack on New York City is that I don’t remember much lasting fuss about it. I do remember that President Bill Clinton was newly sworn into office, but I don’t remember him coming to visit New York after the attack. Everything was back to normal in Lower Manhattan in about a month, maybe two. After a while, unless you had worked in New York, or lived in New York, you simply forgot about this “incident.”

So, on the morning of 9/11, as I pulled into my office building’s garage and listened to the breaking news on the radio announcing that a plane had struck the World Trade Center, tears began to run down my face unbidden. I knew in my heart of hearts what happened. I said to myself, “Oh no. They came back.”

I remember picking up my cell phone to call my father, whom I knew to be, at that time, on an Amtrak train bound for New York City. I remember him telling me it was fine and he’d be fine. I wanted him to get off in New Jersey and take a train back to Philadelphia. But the train was already pretty much past all the stations and getting ready to go into the tunnel to New York. That very thought terrified me. To this day, I still do not understand why Amtrak did not stop those last trains from going into New York City as the news of the World Trade Center attacks first broke.

I next remember getting in the elevator and getting off on my office floor to find people clustered around television sets and radios. And the news kept getting worse: first one plane, then a second, then a third, and then a fourth.

The images and news just didn’t stop. Camera cuts from lower Manhattan to Washington to Somerset County. They are images that have to be ingrained in everyone’s mind forever like indelible ink.

It took a couple of days for my father and brother-in-law (who had already been in New York on business) to get out of the city, but eventually they got home safely with many stories to tell of what New York was like in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. A lot of people weren’t so lucky. They never saw their loved ones again after that fateful morning. Many people in the Philadelphia and greater Main Line area lost friends, coworkers and loved ones.

On September 11, I knew people who were lost, but fortunately I didn’t lose any loved ones. I remember for a brief time it seemed we were all a little nicer to each other, and politicians actually seemed to come together as one and grieve as a nation grieved.

But here we are five short years later. I have only seen the site one time where the World Trade Center once stood proudly. That was about a year after the attacks. I remember a distinct pit in my stomach and looked away from the car window. This past June I was in Washington, and had the same intense, awful feeling in my stomach as we drove on the highway past the Pentagon.

Life must go on and time can’t stand still, but all in all I can’t help but wonder: What have we learned since about our country and about ourselves? Five years after 9/11 what have we learned and what have we forgotten? What do we need to remember?