Dare to

Dare to: Get a bird’s-eye view

Updated: 2013-05-20T20:32:33Z

By TIM ENGLE

The Kansas City Star

For maybe a minute, I am alone at the top of the Liberty Memorial. Then, from below, heavy footsteps on the stairs.

I should be exulting in the gorgeous view around me, taking big gulps of warm spring air, savoring the light breeze.

Instead, I contemplate the 31/2-foot wall in front of me. The person about to join me way up here — the person whose footfalls sound clearly villainous — might decide to tackle me, then try to hurl me over the ledge.

Maybe I’ve been watching too many old movies, like Jimmy Stewart in “Vertigo.”

There’s no villain, of course. Soon, a half dozen folks are milling about, oohing, aah-ing, snapping pictures.

Unless you’re afraid of heights, spending time at the top of this tower, which honors World War I service, might not seem particularly daring. In my case, the fear had more to do with getting from Point A (the ground) to Point B (217 feet up).

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is almost three times taller. Yes, the enclosed top of the Arch sways in the wind, but that didn’t bother me when I was there a few years ago. What freaked me out was the slow, sit-down “tram” ride up, packed inside a seemingly airless pod.

To get to the top of the Liberty Memorial tower, you take a regular elevator. Regular but old-school, with an attendant who shuts a gate before the trip begins. This is not an elevator with no sense of movement — you can see the tower’s interior whiz by.

I wasn’t crazy about it. But the ride lasts maybe 30 seconds.

You then climb a set of stairs. An older gentleman was making his way down.

“How was it?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s a view,” he said. “Wakes you up!”

I was expecting an open area, like a patio, but instead the stairs deposit you on a circular walkway. The top of the memorial is 28 feet in diameter, but the very center is taken up by the tower’s bowl, where the “flame” (actually steam and colored lights) shoots from at night.

Picture postcards always focus on the view to the north — Union Station in the foreground, the downtown skyline beyond — but dandy vistas can be enjoyed from any position.

This is obviously a popular place to bring out-of-towners. A 30-something guy points out the Crown Center Ice Terrace and the Sprint Center to his guests. A woman notes that the Worlds of Fun water tower can be seen off to the northeast.

Before I leave, I notice a fellow in a suit who has picked one spot and stays there. He doesn’t have a camera, and my sense is that he’s a local. Up here, there’s just the white noise of interstate traffic and a couple of other people on the other side pointing and talking softly.

Not a bad way to pass some time. A fine way, in fact, to escape city life for a few minutes, even when you’re looking right at it.

To reach Tim Engle, call 816-234-4779 or email tengle@kcstar.com.

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