Tuesday, May 28, 2002
BACK FROM NYC
Ground Zero is a very large hole in the island of Manhattan that's about seven stories deep. I walked down there expecting to feel something profound, but really, it's just a big, bustling construction site. The city's business district becomes absurdly open and spacious right where it used to be cramped and overwhelming. I stood on the corner near the old church, looking across 16 open acres to the World Financial Center (where I once worked) and it was hard to remember exactly which buildings had once stood where. It was much easier to recall television images of horror and death and tragedy.
I hope that whatever monument everyone eventually agrees upon for this site offers plenty of pictures of the old Trade Center and its inhabitants from street-level angles. That's how I'd like to remember it - not from across the river or flying past in a helicopter, but from the street, giant towers rising upward, surrounded by thousands of people all heading somewhere in a hurry.
The 9/11 Missing Person flyers are long gone, but there's still plenty of handcrafted tributes hanging from the buildings and fences that ring the site. This small firehouse stands across the street, on the south side of Ground Zero, next to a deli I used to eat at regularly. It amazes me that buildings like this - which stood 100 feet from the towers - remain standing. I used to sit by the Hudson River, waiting for the Hoboken ferry and stare up at the towers, imaging where they'd land if they fell (this was just after the failed 1993 attack). I gave it a 50/50 chance they could reach all the way to the water and crush the ferry in which I'd be trying to escape. I never imagined they fall straight down.
Inside the World Financial Center's public spaces, all the windows looking out over Ground Zero have been glazed over. I'll bet that was a tough call. If they left the windows clear, the building would likely be packed with gawkers. Unseemly yes, but likely profitable to all the eateries and shops struggling to stay afloat within the WFC. Hey, if the Burrito Kitchen goes out of business, won't that mean the terrorists won? Business be damned, I'm glad the windows are covered.
There's a big battle in NYC about how best to wrap up the Ground Zero clean-up. Mayor Bloomberg has named Thursday, May 30th the closing date. Many families are pissed that the ceremony isn't being held on a Sunday, when more people could attend. Meanwhile, site workers uncovered more bones recently and insist they'll need until June 15th at least to finish up. No matter, May 30th is the day, so support operations like food tents and such are closing down. My friend B Bob - who's been working with the Salvation Army down there for eight months - voiced the frustrations of workers who feel they're being ignored and pushed aside so a bunch of politicians can line up and cry on cue for the television cameras as the final beam is lifted from the hole.
She's right, I know. But isn't that what politicians do? I expect it. What surprises me is how the endgame of this incident has devolved into catfights between politicians, insulted construction workers and the families of dead firemen while rarely mentioned are the most numerous victims - 2,500 office drones who showed up for work one autumn day and got wacked. Read the paper. Nowhere will you find anyone advocating a memorial featuring WTC secretaries, bond salesmen and bus boys from Windows on the World. Maybe I'm dreaming, but that's something I'd like to see.