9/11/2001


Most of us remember exactly where we were, and what we were doing, on the morning of 9/11/2001.

I was sitting in my office, doing paperwork, as I geared up for the upcoming, busy, holiday season. There was a lot to get sorted, since my husband and I were also just two days away from leaving on a two week vacation.

Back then, I had a pretty successful eBay business, called RoxanneShops. I had five people working for me, and was doing quite well.

I was sitting at my desk, with Howard Stern’s radio show playing in the background, when I began to sense a change in the tone of the chatter. Like most people, I didn’t realize what I was hearing, at first. Something about a plane behaving oddly?

At 8:46 a.m., I turned on the office television, just in time to watch the first plane strike the World Trade Center,  in real time.

It was surreal. I watched, mouth agape, unable to process what I was seeing. After all, North America has mostly been spared acts of war and terrorism since the attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941. We have seen the boys and girls march off to war, even seen many of them return in body bags, but an actual physical attack on our soil? Unthinkable!

My husband was home, on sabbatical, and still sleeping, so I had no one with whom to share my shock at the attack. And I actually felt a little like I must be still abed myself, still dreaming, since what was happening was so incredibly surreal.

After the second plane struck, I had to wake my husband. I couldn’t handle this on my own. This was all so crazy, so unnatural, so out of the ordinary.  Together we watched the events unfolding, in shock.  The unthinkable had become not only thinkable, but a new reality.

In less than two hours, everything we thought we knew about war and terrorism had turned inside out. Because it had now happened on American soil.

I was gripped with a stomach churning fear and panic. We had no idea what horrors might still be awaiting us, and no idea how many more would die as we looked on, helpless to stop the deaths.

I remember that Howard Stern stayed on the air, long past his regular end time. I think we all sensed that this was a historic moment of time, and that what we felt and did in those moments needed to be memorialized.

Still, life was going on around us. Planes were still flying – I was going to have to steel myself to get on one in two days time, with this new fear added to my usual fear of flying. (And, bless their western hearts, the staff and crew on Westjet‘s flight to Alberta kept us all laughing and sane through that journey.)

All over North America, people were rising to the occasion, showing their true, and often heroic, colours. Firemen, completing a long shift and headed for bed, instead got back on the trucks and sped to the World Trade Center – and that is why there were so many first responders that perished that day.

The musical, Come From Away, tells the true story of the week following the attacks, and of how the 7,000 stranded travelers who had been on 38 planes that landed unexpected in Gander, Newfoundland, were housed and fed by the Gander residents in a wonderful show of Canadian human kindness.

There were many other heroes made that day, and many stories have been written. We all struggle to fully understand what circumstances came together to cause this horrible loss of lives, and, even worse, the depths of the sadness felt by those that were left behind, their loved ones vanished in a moment.

There are days you wish you could unlive, moments you wish you could unsee. When I started writing this, this morning, the memories came to me so bright, so clear.

May we never have to see another day like it. May we never forget the day that it was.

America 9 11 2001 Liberty

From CNN:         September 11, 2001 timeline

 8:46 a.m. ET – American Airlines Flight 11 (traveling from Boston to Los Angeles) strikes the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
– 9:03 a.m. ET – United Airlines Flight 175 (traveling from Boston to Los Angeles) strikes the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
– 9:37 a.m. ET – American Airlines Flight 77 (traveling from Dulles, Virginia, to Los Angeles) strikes the Pentagon Building in Washington.
– 9:59 a.m. ET – South tower of WTC collapses in approximately 10 seconds.
– 10:03 a.m. ET – United Airlines Flight 93 (traveling from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco) crashes in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
– 10:28 a.m. ET – North tower of WTC collapses. The time between the first attack and the collapse of both World Trade Center towers is 102 minutes.

2,753 people were killed when hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 were intentionally crashed into the north and south towers, or as a result of the crashes.
Of those who perished during the initial attacks and the subsequent collapses of the towers, 343 were New York City firefighters, 23 were New York City police officers and 37 were officers at the Port Authority.
The victims ranged in age from two to 85 years. Approximately 75-80% of the victims were men.
At the Pentagon in Washington, 184 people were killed when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building.
Near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 40 passengers and crew members aboard United Airlines Flight 93 died when the plane crashed into a field. It is believed that the hijackers crashed the plane in that location, rather than their unknown target, after the passengers and crew attempted to retake control of the flight deck.
As of July 2018, 1642 (or 60%) of 2,753 WTC victims’ remains have been positively identified, according to the medical examiner’s office.

 

 

The Mondrian on Coxwell Avenue


Coxwell 157 2012A few years ago I was walking down Coxwell Avenue, below Gerrard, and saw an amazing house. Snuggled between two very ordinary residences, 157 Coxwell was a jewel shining amidst trash, an exotic bird in four story flight. I stopped dead in my tracks to contemplate how this beauty came about in a city more known for uniformity than individuality.

And of course, I had neither my camera nor my phone with me to capture the sight. So I carried on my way, but often found myself thinking about the house. Mondrian with a hint of Mandelbrot, I thought.

fractal-mondrianI’m not one of those who search out architecture. The grandeur of most contemporary mansions featured in glossy magazines only prompts a sigh for the waste of money and the egotism of those who build shrines to their own wealth and positions. But I do appreciate individualism, and that’s something we sorely lack in Ontario.

Our older homes tend to reflect our British backgrounds. Our colour palettes generally run to beiges and greys with the occasional red brick. On the plus side, that same craving for “over ‘ome” means that we rely heavily on gardens, trees and legally protected parklands, often the only bit of colour to be found for miles.

Cut to yesterday, when I once again found myself at the corner of Coxwell and Gerrard. The bus was taking forever, it was a lovely day, and I was wearing my favourite sneakers. So I decided to walk towards Queen, and once again have a look at that extraordinary house.

Coxwell 157 May 2015As I approached, I saw two men excitedly talking and gesturing towards the structure, which seemed to have undergone some reconstructuring. The back of the house had been extended, and there were eight new foundational supports visible. Plywood covered some of the colour blocks.

Coxwell 157 May 2015 fullThis time, I had my camera ready. I snapped a shot of the side addition, and then moved to get a full shot of the front, smiling and nodding at the two men. They asked me why I wanted photos of the construction, and I told them of my interest in the house’s appearance.  

As I explained, one of the men laughed, and introduced himself as  Rohan Walters, the original architect. His friend was another prominent architect, Daniel Karpinski. They were there to see what changes were being made to the structure, as it had been sold, and the new owner wanted to put her own stamp on her residence. Changes included an elevator installation, and of course, a great deal of additional floor space.

Rohan WaltersI asked Rohan if it was hard for him to see changes made to his design. He admitted that he was worried about changes to the overall composition of the building. He’d spent a great deal of time in first imagining how the original structure would look. Here’s some of his thought process:

Then it happened. I’m sitting amongst ‘The Group of Seven’ paintings. Being amongst paintings, particularly these paintings are healing for me. With my face in my hands, I looked broken. I raised my eyes to the paintings and then it hit me: the colours of the sky, the flora and fauna. The various hues, depths, tones, intensities and responses over the day and seasons. That is what I had been missing. True colour is never alone; it is a tapestry of ever changing and yet knowable themes.”

st johns newf housesDaniel, Rohan and I continued to chat about the importance of colour in residential construction. We agreed that Toronto tended to conform to neutral palettes, with rare exceptions, and that other cities, like those in St. John’s, Newfoundland had a more joyous and welcoming appearance. In fact, St. John’s is amongst the eight most colourful cities in the world.

http://enpundit.com/8-most-colorful-cities-on-earth/

We continued to talk about the importance of an infusion of colour into cities. Daniel told me that the citizens of the Soviet held East Berlin were so depressed by the grey, bleak architecture of the time that they would covertly throw hollowed eggs filled with paint at the buildings. A colourless city is a joyless place.

coxwell-kitchenI was sorry to have to leave the conversation, but Rohan gave me his contact info, (SpacesBy Rohan.com) and sent me a package of interior and exterior photos of his creation.

At home, I researched the history of the project, and found several informative articles, including a four part blog Rohan wrote for “Reading Toronto,” in 2005. Some of the innovations Rohan brought to the construction, begun in 2002, seem tremendously rational, but had not been previously considered in construction codes.

“This Coxwell house is, arguably, the first house built since the 1997 edition of the OBC not requiring a heat recovery ventilation system. I pitched the head mechanical engineer at the city. I showed him my calculations for the house’s natural air infiltration and ex-filtration in concordance with non-combusting appliances such as the ‘direct vent’ furnace, condensing dryer, warm floors and single air volume that did not combust any internal air. As such the air exchange rate met the facts and intent of the code. “

His own home, “Triangle House,” possibly the smallest triangular building lot in the city of Toronto at the time, was built in 2005 for himself and his children, and carried on the colour blocking theme, and utilized such nuances as

Triangle House night“A combined heating and domestic hot water system, orchestrated electrical and plumbing designed with baseboard and pilasters, comparing the vibrations and sound of this frame home with that of a masonry home because of the concrete topping on top of the joists and limiting the building footprint with pier construction, the concrete positioned to act as a ‘thermo mass’ assisting in heating and cooling depending on season, and so on…. a teaching tool for myself: the possible from the improbable.”

I thought about our unlikely and stimulating conversation as I continued to walk towards Queen Street, cutting through parks and side streets. The Beaches has always been a desirable area, not only for the beach access, but for the sense of community and family nurtured by the residents.

lakehouse buildingIn pursuit of well-heeled buyers who want to piggyback on that charm, a lot of the older homes and buildings are being torn down, and replaced with cookie-cutter townhouses and condos. Where once a three or four story building was considered an eyesore and impedance to lake views, new constructions feature heights that will effectively distance the long-time residents from the nouveau.

montreal winter outdoor-staircases-Cities have a life of their own, which derives from the cultures they encompass. Consider the square greyness of the uptight and politically choke-held Ottawa, the slightly askew streets and impractical outside staircases of Montreal, or the exuberance of Calgary’s newest buildings, which appear overnight from the ashes of the Cowtown’s foundations.

ethnic enclave TorontoToronto, once so proudly W.A.S.P., now teems with diversity. The areas where new immigrants congregate to create ethnic enclaves may not be to your taste, but display individuality in the face of the conformity seemingly endlessly churned out in bland suburbia.

We need more visionaries re-imagining urban Toronto. Duly and safely freshening your beige home exterior is a bore. This year, try pink. Or turquoise. Or emerald green. You never liked your neighbours anyway.