8. Life and dust

The vast concrete plaza at the base of the twin towers, a windswept butte that architectural critics and office workers alike recognized as sterile and uninviting, was the perfect place for Catherine McVay Hughes’s two sons, Philip and Matthew, to learn to ride their bicycles. On weekends, when the suits and briefcases were nowhere in sight, the big space was all theirs. Children of the city, they also ice skated there in the winters, when the Port Authority installed a rink to break up the plaza’s bleakness. For the Hughes family, the plaza became a substitute backyard. Their own home was a roomy apartment on the 14th floor of an old loft building on Broadway, just one block away. The huge copper windows of their apartment ...

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