Returning to the World Trade Center
September 17, 2008
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It was a warm day in late May when I decided to visit
going to a Yankees game (though I am a Red Sox fan, I wanted to see a game in
the old stadium before it was retired) with a co-worker who loved the city and
who was excited to show me around. I had only been there once for a community
service trip, so after the game we flagged down a cab and began our venture.
My friend took me to
which was truly overwhelming and although it was magnificent in its own way, I
was not fond of the “hurried” atmosphere. She showed me the Rockefeller Center,
which took me by surprise because people were ice-skating outdoors during 70
degree weather. We also walked by St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I had been inside it
on my mission trip and from the outside it looked like a giant castle that
sprouted from medieval times into the heart of our nation’s most well-known
city. After a long day, we decided to head back to Grand Central Station to
board the train home. “Wait a minute!” my friend exclaimed as we quickly walked
among the bright lights of the shopping centers. “We haven’t been to Ground Zero.”
We flagged down another taxi cab and away we went.
At first I didn’t recognize the place. To be honest, I had
never even seen the
until 2001 after the disaster immortalized the buildings and placed them on every
TV set in the nation. The area that surrounded me as I stepped out of the cab
was unfamiliar and strangely different from the rest of New York City. I
couldn’t figure out this difference, as it came merely as a feeling and not a
concrete sight, but then I realized it.
This area of the city was quiet. People
weren’t yelling across the streets to each other, and cars weren’t battling
each other to beat yellow lights. There was hardly any traffic at all, and as I
watched our cab slowly drive off, I wondered how after almost seven years
later, this area that was located in one of the busiest places on earth still
had not rejoined normality.
To my left was the fire department. We walked alongside it,
and I am still haunted by the pictures of firefighters hanging among the wall.
There were several bulletin boards of men posted up, photos sadly bunched
together like old friends; their final assembly. They hugged their daughters,
embraced their wives, and smiled as though nothing in the world could steal
their frowns from them. I thought about the families that they left behind;
about their son who had nobody to play catch with, and their daughter who would
not have a partner for the father-daughter first grade ball.
Then I saw Ground Zero itself. Tall walls and fences hid it
from the public, and I had to find an opening to view it. I was taken back by
the emptiness inside. Where monstrous buildings once stood, there was now a
hole in the ground as I actually had to look downward in some places to see the
ground. Construction equipment was everywhere, and I second guessed the images
in front of me. Seven years later, and
this is what Ground Zero still looks like? Part of me expected to see a
memorial or new buildings, and the other part of me didn’t know what to expect.
A feeling consumed me as I stood at the fence and looked in.
I was frozen with emotions: I was scared, I wanted to cry, I wanted to pray, I
wanted to leave, and I wanted to stay. There was a sense of eeriness that
emitted from that place, and I suddenly felt like I’d seen a ghost. Newscasts
of Sept. 11, 2001 began replaying over and over in my head, and I didn’t
realize it when I was there, but my friend later told me she’d seen me crying.
I don’t know how long I stood at Ground Zero, but I remember
the long, quiet cab ride back to the train station. I watched the place where
the twin towers once stood disappear as we drove away, the image still in my
mind today, five months after. I see it in my dreams; I see it in my
nightmares. I thank God every day that nobody in my family was in those
buildings that day. I pray for those families who lost someone special to them there,
and I thank God for the heroes who gave their lives trying to save. I believe
those people were a beautiful mixture of real life superheroes and angels, and
they are role models for our children to look up to, representing true courage
If you haven’t visited Ground Zero, I strongly urge you do
so. It’s an experience that cannot be duplicated by a television newscast or a
newspaper article. It’s an experience that will change you forever.