Tuesday, September 12, 2006


This fifth anniversary of the attacks causes a remembrance for me. I have a connection to the World Trade Center, because the Jivewires played a show there. We were in the Windows On The World restaurant and bar on the 106 floor of the North Tower. The date was Saturday, October 21, 2000.

Previously, the band had played other clubs in NYC (and also the now-defunct Sunday Swing Dances at Irving Plaza), but when this gig came through it was a much bigger deal. Normally when we play in the States we try to get a few gigs lined up, say for three or four days in Boston, Albany, Washington DC, etc.. (One time we had two dates in NYC, and were able to stay in an apartment on 4th St. that rents out to travelling groups. It was cool to have the afternoon to explore the city a bit. I remember bassist Kurt and I going for a walk to the WTC, and looking straight up at the two towers. The next day sax player Brian and I later walked all the way to 50th St. and back, which is a pretty good hike [92 blocks round-trip]!) But the WTC gig came on short notice, and we did not want to say No, even though we did not have time to line up other gigs. So we did it as a one-nighter, driving the 7.5 hours there, playing 3 sets of music, then turning around and drive back that night. That's the glamourous side of the biz... :P

We arrived around 7:00pm, and loaded our gear into the building. We fortunately did not have to find and use the loading dock and freight elevator, but came in right off the street. The restaurant had its own elevator, which was quite large (about 12'x8'), and we just rolled our stuff in first, then some customers got on. I think that elevator rose about as fast as it could without making you sick, and the floor number display kicked in around 90 and flew by, slowing down around 103. Upon exiting we got our gear into the bar, with the stage being in the SE corner of the building. After setting things up I had to check out the view.

Looking out the north windows, you had an unobstructed view of downtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building (my fave) and so on. Say what we want about skyscrapers, Big Business, etc., it was an impressive sight. I also thought of all the great music that happens in that city, and how it is (and has been) THE place for great jazz. Thinking of the Swing Era, with Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington and their great bands (they both played at the above-mentioned Irving Plaza), and later on people like Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, etc. all coming there to prove themselves and help take the music to new places. Moving to the west windows, looking out over the Hudson River, with New Jersey on the other side. Towards the SW corner, and looking down at the harbour and the Statue Of Liberty. Then moving to the south windows and woah! - there's the South tower! At that height you don't expect to see another building right beside you, even though you know it exists. I could see folks on the top floor observation deck, and looking down the towers were close enough to each other that they seemed to meet at the base.

My reverie was broken by the manager saying we could get some food in the employee cafeteria, one flight up. So he led us out a set of doors into the stairwells. We all paused for a moment, looking down the steps. I think we all shuddered a bit, imagining what it would be like to have to get down 106 floors if the elevators were broken. Comments were made along the lines of "wouldn't want to have to run down those in a hurry" etc. Then we walked upstairs and ate our free food. The gig was a lot of fun, and as we sped back home through the dark night we hoped we would get to play there again.

And we almost did. A booking for the following Spring did not materialize, and another for August 11 had to cancelled due to U.S. Immigration screwing up our work visas. So another date was set for October 20, then came 9/11. As I watched the events unfold on TV I thought of that top floor, with the staff and patrons most likely trapped, because I could not see how they could make their way down those stairs given the amount of damage.

We still had the other U.S. dates to do that October, so that weekend we played Boston, then drove across Manhattan to head south along the New Jersey Turnpike to Washington. And as we drove we realized we would pass the site with only the Hudson River separating us, and when someone asked where the WTC site was I pointed "over there", where you can see the smoke still rising". It was a rather sombre and reflective trip to our next destination...

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