Ground Zero: A Book Launch at Studio Daniel Libeskind

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With a nip in the air, I grab a cab heading for Studio Daniel Libeskind on Rector Street, close by Ground Zero and across from Trinity Churchyard. This is the workplace of an architect who has created some of the most stunning cultural centers, museums and residential buildings in the world. The list goes on and on, ranging from “Reflections at Keppel Bay” in Singapore to “Dancing Towers” in Seoul, South Korea to “Chausseestrasse 43’ in Berlin, to mention only a few of my favorites. Not only does the list go on and on, but so does the view of lower New York and the harbor.

But the project dearest to my heart is the Ground Zero Masterplan, defining the spatial organization of all the elements—the Memorial, the Memorial Museum, the Towers, the Visitors' Pavilion, and even the infrastructure that includes a new transportation hub—within the 16-acre site, formerly home to the World Trade Towers.

That said, my visit this evening has nothing to do with any architectural projects. Rather, I've been invited to a 'book party,' to a celebration marking the publication of a memoir written by my friend and Daniel's sister, Annette Libeskind Berkovits: In the Unlikeliest of Places: How Nachman Libeskind Survived the Nazis, the Gulag and Soviet Communism. (Available on Amazon.)

Annette and I met years ago when we both turned up for the first of many memoir-writing courses at Gotham Writers. It was then she began working on what has become an inspiring account of her father, a man of unfailing courage, integrity and optimism, who would eventually bring his family to America.

So where's the French connection? It's that a branch of Annette's family is French, and therein lies an interesting story—a  tale of tragedy averted and romance found. During Word War II, three of her cousins (all females) and an aunt were saved from deportation to the concentration camps by a French farmer and his wife who hid them in the basement of their farmhouse for the duration of the war. After the war, the eldest of the three girls married the farmer's son and, eventually, Madame Malais was recognized by both the French and Israeli governments for her heroism and is listed among 'The Righteous'.

Tonight, as I step off the elevator on the nineteenth floor, on raised platforms are the architectural models of lower Manhattan and Ground Zero. Not knowing anyone in the crowd, other than my friend who is being mobbed by well-wishers, and having already purchased the book, I walk over to check them out.

For a child who loved nothing better than turning discarded shoe-boxes into dollhouses, this is pure heaven. Why it even has trees! Even so, I should tell you that my models came furnished with tables and chairs, beds and dressers—all cut from the cardboard that the Chinese Laundry once put inside the shirts. With a nibble and a nicely balanced French white in hand, I mosey-on down a corridor lined with drawings and photographs. Knowing you would be interested, I click away. Unfortunately, there are no identifying tags, so I'm unsure exactly what it is that I'm looking at, but intrigued, nonetheless. Is that a building? Is that a sketch of a monument in the works?

Before long, we are shepherded into a side room where Daniel Libeskind says a few words, and Annette reads selected passages from her book. After which I hang around long enough to get her autograph, before going downstairs and pressing the Uber app on my iPhone.

Within minutes, a black Toyota SUV rolls up to the curb and the driver, Daitan, who couldn't be nicer, helps me into the car. Homeward bound, with the streets of New York flashing by, I'm wondering—now that Annette has pulled off this dazzling caper of having a book party in an artist's atelier at the top of the world—where should I have a book launch party  when my memoir is published? The pressure's on. Any ideas? Help me out.

And ladies, let me tell you, Uber is the only way to go. Why runaround town in stilettos after dark trying to hail a cab, hoping all the while he'll want to go where you're going? What's more, the trip home by Daitan in a pristine Black Car cost less than the grimy Yellow Cab I took downtown. Get yourself an Uber app. Bright Lights, Big City: What an amazing town!