Third Anniversary Observations
"...I don't think I?ll look up at them right now. I
know they're there..."
One never likes to look like a tourist in one's home town.
That's why the effort to look up at the World Trade Center
was something I occasionally thought twice about. And I remember
hearing these very words in my head on one visit a few years
Standing under the buildings, you'd be arching your whole
body backward, while craning your neck back to look up, up,
up at the quarter mile height of the Towers. Native New Yorkers
did not want to present this image to the world; you risked
looking like a rube, being mugged or becoming a hazard to
navigation for busy workers hurrying back to the office. Who
Now, when you stand at the corner of West Street and Vesey
you are looking up into unnatural acres of blue sky. Standing
there, bathed in light at a spot that had spent 30 years in
shadow, it is easy to visualize the Before, During and After
of September 11th. It is a painful and strange experience,
a time warp of memory and emotion.
The site has been more accessible this year than in the previous
two years, with streets reopened and train access restored.
It's possible now to see, study and experience things from
new, and sometimes old, perspectives. The pedestrian bridge
over West Street has been replaced; it offers a view down
into the "bathtub," the complex's foundation. From
here you have a sense of the progress that's been made toward
rebuilding. On Vesey is the rapidly rising 7 WTC, the first
of the buildings to actually be replaced.
At the corner of Vesey and Church Streets you can go underground
to the subway. Here, there's a different collision, one of
Past, Present and Future. It somehow feels more intimate.
Now we are no longer at the site, but are truly in the site.
The entire WTC complex was connected by a large and busy
shopping concourse. The small tunnel that connected the Chambers
Street subway station with the concourse is accessible again.
Covered in the white unfilled limestone popular in the1960s,
it is the only piece of the original architecture that survives.
A plaque was placed on a support column to observe this fact.
But now you are no longer at the enclosed concourse, you
are walking out into the open bathtub. Below the street now,
through a chain-link fence, you are looking across the 16
acres of space, and up once again into the sky. This is the
view that visitors will have when the planned September 11th
memorial is built.
Visible from this spot is a cross that has been mounted on
a concrete column up on Church Street. Made of two pieces
of tower steel that had been joined inside the structure,
it was found during the recovery as it is seen now, with a
shard of aluminum fuselage wrapped around its? end like a
piece of flowing silver cloth. This sketch of the cross is
from the journal entry I made there in April of 2004.
Tourists-and there are many of them-treat the scene with
a basic reverence. People who are there daily seem to hurry
by and try not to look too closely at anything or anyone they
don't need to look at.
With all the activity here in New York?s Financial District,
right here it is, somehow, quiet.