Monday, May 01, 2006

Bathed In Light

It's hard to believe she's only 75 years old. It seems as though this building, so closely associated with New York City, has been standing here since Verrazano sailed into the harbor in 1525. Its lights beckon us to reach higher, be stronger, try harder. These lights have thrilled people from around the nation and around the globe. If a building can be an icon, then certainly the Empire State Building is the very essence of that word.

As it rises almost 1,500 feet from the street level, it's soaring majesty commands attention without demanding it.

Built at the height of the Depression, for no other reason than it had to be built...there was no overwhelming economic force at play, no urban planning model that demanded such a structure, no governmental edict...this building has faltered, struggled, renewed and revitalized itself, and is now poised to step towards eternity as a thriving entity, modern-yet-classic, bold-but-familiar.

These lights, this building, has told people with its quiet grandeur and magnificence, that yes, you too can make it here.

And so I find the coincidence almost karmic that this emblem of this great immigrant city is celebrating it's 75th birthday on a day when immigrants from around the world gather to protest attempts to criminalize them.

I often spend time at the observation decks of the building (I carry my executive pass around in my wallet), and rather than look out, I look inward. I observe the families and school groups gather around the walls and windows, excited and nervous, pointing out this landmark, that building. Often, the most vibrant corner of the tower is the one facing northeast, towards the Chrysler Building, the only building that, even when the Trade Center towers stood, truly rivaled the Empire State Building in height (the WTC being so far downtown, you couldn't grasp the magnitude of those buildings from midtown).

At night, the lights of the city burn like embers from a fire scattered about this gray lady, warming her in their glow and people are hushed as they scan the horizon.

And I look even further inward, and find that I too am awestruck by this building. Ignore the physical accomplishment of raising it, or the demands it requires for maintenance and security. Put aside the sheer physical presence, and contemplate the metaphysical: it towers above the towering city of North America. To stand on the tower is to reach up and nearly touch God himself, to catch that falling star and put it in your pocket.

To glimpse immortality.

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