I remember visiting the World Trade Center for the first time as a kid, in the early 80's, on a whirlwind tour of Manhattan with my mom and sister. My mom even took us into Windows On The World for lunch. It was breathtaking.
The next time I went there was in the summer 1990, with a few fellow students from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Being “aspiring artists” Windows On The World was out of our budgets – but peeking inside the famous restaurant was still a thrill for me.
The last time I visited the towers was in 1997. Little did I know that the photos taken from the roof deck of one of the twin towers would come to mean a lot more to me a few years later. Peering down on that glittering city, looking out across an awe- (and vertigo!) inspiring expanse, it was hard to imagine that those crystalline beauties upon which we stood could even be thought of as fragile or vulnerable.
In 2005, I was in Manhattan again. I did not want to go to Ground Zero. However, a girlfriend was visiting from Germany. We were doing the tourist dash from uptown to downtown, and back again. Returning from Battery Park, past Wall Street and heading toward Midtown, suddenly and quite by accident, I found myself there, standing in front the chain-link fence surrounding Ground Zero.
Overpowered with emotion, I got choked up, thinking of the people trapped inside the buildings that day. I thought of the panic they felt - jammed into the stairwells trying to escape. I imagined the phone calls telling loved ones "good bye" and not to worry. Who would I call first, in the last moments? My blubbering turned to tears as I recounted stories to my friend, and thought about what it takes to seize the last shred of control and jump out of a doomed skyscraper. I marvelled again at the rescue workers, the people blind-sided in the Pentagon, and Flight 93, crashing in the fields of Pennsylvania whose passengers, with their "let's roll" attitude, died heros...
It was still too much to imagine that could happen, standing on that sidewalk, gazing upward into empty blue sky.
I never did get to drink a Manhattan atop the world, but I can share New York’s “King of Cocktails” Dale DeGroff formula for the perfect Manhattan. In addition to founding the Museum of the Cocktail, he also trained many of the bar staff at Windows On The World.
On this somber anniversary, a liquid tribute to one of the most special cities in the world…
2 oz. Blended Whiskey
1 oz. Sweet Spanish Sherry (Windows On The World substituted sherry for Italian Sweet Vermouth, which is more commonly used)
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Pour all ingredients over ice in a mixing glass and stir as you would a Martini. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry. Note: If you prefer a dry Manhattan, use dry Vermouth and garnish with a lemon peel.
Interesting side note: On January 4, 2006, a number of former Windows on the World staff opened Colors, a co-operative restaurant in Manhattan that serves as a tribute to their fallen colleagues and whose menu reflects the diversity of the former Windows' staff.