Today I think about what happened six years ago, and all that has happened since. This piece today is not about the political aspect or thinking about the pros and cons of the Iraq war. I hate thinking about politics, and I rarely discuss them. Unlike some of my fellow chess bloggers I will not write about politics or religion. Heck, I don't even like to talk about chess politics! So this is simply a rambling piece with a definite NY bias. Though I wasn't born and raised in New York, I've spent over half my life here so I consider myself a New Yorker. And yes there is chess in this piece too. An event like this impacts all parts of one's life, and chess is a big part of mine.
9/11/01 is day I'll certainly never forget. People of my generation remember where they were when John K Kennedy was shot. Today's generation will remember where they were when the four planes crashed into the WTC, Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. I remember the day well. It was beautiful and sunny. Since I hadn't started my chess classes yet, I was out riding my bike with friends, and it was only because someone on the ride was listening to the the radio that we had any idea that something unusual was happening. It wasn't until I got back from that ride and saw the images on television that I could understand the magnitude of those events. Getting second hand information from a guy with a little radio didn't make it clear what had happened.
A part of my work scenery and chess history was destroyed that day. It also changed some of my teaching experiences when I ended out replacing a NYC police officer who taught at one school. Fortunately he was not lost that day, but his job got a lot harder, and he was working 12 hour days seven days a week. He had no time to be teaching a game he loved to kids. I know chess people who had worked at the World Trade Center. They survived except the dad of a young kid who played in a number of the scholastic events I directed in Westchester and Fairfield counties. Today I watched some of the memorial ceramony. It's raining today, and watching the families leave their flowers and carrying the photos of their loved ones I felt like the heavens were crying with us. I didn't know Colin's dad too well since more often then not it was mom who brought him to tournaments or picked him up after chess club. I didn't listen to every single name being read, I did wait to hear Colin's dad's name being read. Steve, I know that Colin and the rest of your family misses you very much.
I worked for 12 years in lower Manhattan. I can remember looking out the windows of 1 New York Plaza from the 42nd floor. The view of the World Trade Center from our data center window was such that you could only see one tower. It was an interesting perspective. I had always wanted to take a picture from there since it was an odd view, but being wrapped up in my first real job that had prospects for an actual career, I never go around to it.
I left that job after a year and a half, and moved a few blocks north. Every morning I'd get off the subway at Fulton St. As I'd come up the stairs the twin towers loomed ahead. Architecturally they really were pretty boring buildings. New York City has far more magnificent buildings, however there was something impressive and imposing about these giant twins that I would see every morning. Also they were a major part of the New York sky line. No matter how many times I fly into NY or drive over bridges with the spectacular view of Manhattan, I never tire of it. But the hole in the skyline also leaves a hole in my heart. I remember one of the first times I came back into Manhattan to play chess after 9/11 I looked down Seventh Avenue and could see the World Financial Center. It was really weird seeing that instead of the towers.
In 1992 I got "downsized" right out of my 10 year career as a data center operations manager. Despite having been miserable for the last couple of years on the job, it still was a big blow to me. I was making very good money, I had 4 weeks of paid vacation, and very good benefits. My job was like a comfy old pair of shoes that one knows aren't meeting the needs of her tired feet, but can't bear to part with. I hated the job, but when one is making good money and have 10+ years with a company, it's hard to let go.
Even though I officially my last day had been August 31st, 1992 I was given outplacemnt assistance and I still had a cubicle and a phone to work from for many months to follow. I was downtown in 1993 when the first bombing occurred. I can remember seeing the smoke pouring out, and wondering what the hell was going on. My husband had come downtown to shop at J&R and grab a bite to eat with me. I remember the two of us sitting in the Burger King on Liberty St. across the street from the Trade Center, eating lunch and watching the firefighters and police scurrying around.
As I watched all of this unfolding I thought back on a job interview I had in one of the towers. It was a temporary job with Citi Bank to train tellers in the new banking computer system. If I had gotten the job I would have been working there in one of the towers as a trainer. That was just one of many job interviews that I went on that never panned out. I do believe things happen for a reason, and that was a job rejection that I can be very thankful for.
As New Yorkers who live or work in Manhattan we rarely take the time to do the touristy things that out of towners do. Since moving here in 1977, I never went to the top the Empire State Building. I did that as kid when visiting my aunt. I never went to the observation deck of the World Trade Center. The first time I was ever on the observation deck level was for the Kasparov-Anand World Championship match. Ironically enough that would start on Tuesday Sept. 11th, 1995. Six years to the day of 9/11/2001.
I still have the program and poster from that event. I collect a lot of chess related stuff. Posters and programs end out in my possession, but many of them I end out getting rid of because paper items don't interest me as much as my beloved chess pins and medals. However these items got stashed, and did not get given away or sold. These will not end out on Ebay.
The World Trade Center also holds a lot of chess playing memories for me. I played in the Commercial Chess League for many years. I played for Exxon and Solomon Brothers when I worked at those two companies, and I also played on some of the alumni teams that consisted of players who were no longer working for a company with a team in the league. We played our matches either at home (our company offices) or away (the opponent's company offices). When you played on an alumni team all of your matches were away games. I played a number of matches at the World Trade Center against The Port Authority and Blue Cross & Blue Shield.
My last match there was April 18, 2001 against Blue Cross. The reason I remember the date is because several months after 9/11 I found my visitor's badge from April 18th. Security had been tightened tremendously after the truck bombing of 1993. You had to show photo ID and being photographed and issued a temporary ID for your visit. They allowed you to keep the badge, and I guess being the pack rat I am it got tossed into a drawer as a souvenir from a successful match.
It was a match that we were outrated on every board. I was on Board Two playing a 1900 player. The match score was 1.5 - 1.5 with just my game still going on. Blue Cross only had to win or draw the match to win the division. My team was just playing for pride. I guess pride is a good enough reason at times. This was probably my hardest fought game I ever played in the league. I had played a hard fought 64 move game that I managed to win, despite the fact that my opponent at one point had two passed pawns sitting on my 7th rank. Looking at the game today as I was putting into Chess Publisher, I was amazed I had pulled it out. It certainly was one of my better defensive efforts and after I had gotten rid of both of the annoying passed pawns, it came down to an ending with my queen and 4 pawns against his two rooks and 3 pawns. It was one of those positions that I was glad the time limit had been G/120, not G/30. I don't think I could have held the position with so little time. Winning the game also allowed us to pull out the match, and costing Blue Cross clear first.
Commercial Chess League
White: Kenneth Eng 1921 vs Black: Polly Wright 1700
After 9/11/01 I wondered if Ken had gotten out in time. I had heard from others that he indeed was alive. I was immensely relieved to see him the following February at the US Amateur Team East. I still don't know whether he was at work that day, or whether he has some harrowing tale to tell about getting out on time. Outside of passing him in the corridors outside the playing room of various tournaments we've both played in, I've had no contact with him. Perhaps one day we'll cross paths gain over the chessboard, and I will find out about his day on that particular Tuesday.