Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Couple of weeks ago, I think it was July 3rd, I got out of work early and decided to take a long walk uptown before hopping on the train home. Skirted Battery Park, past the evil DMV and headed towards the hole in the ground formerly known as the World Trade Center. I walked up Greenwich Street, past several closed up storefronts, "We're Open!" signs and a large office building covered in some sort of black shroud. About a block before you get to the construction site, the typically loud and vibrant energy of the city softens into something of a dreamlike hum. At the site itself, tourists crowd the fenced walkway, taking pictures and being generally annoying. There's a couple of vendors selling picture books and postcards and other 9/11 memorabilia. This all strikes me as rather obscene.

The site itself is rather unremarkable if you somehow didn't know what had once stood on it. The enormity of its absence finally hit me, standing there looking across the empty space I had walked over, under and through a million times over the years. There was a heaviness in the air and I actually found it hard to breathe. I walked steadily, up and over the ramp that leads to the World Financial Center, through the building and back out onto the street on the other side. Heading north along the West Side Highway, I kept looking to the east as large cranes and other construction equipment went about the work of rebuilding. I can't imagine what it must be like to one of the people working there. Wonder whether they feel a sense of pride or a sense of dread about their work. Whether they look forward to finishing or find solace in the act itself.

I'm not a big fan of the proposed new look for the site, though as compromises go, it could be worse. For once, I'd love to see a major decision made in this country based on something other than economics. To have the entire space made green, with a simple but unmistakable - and unpoliticized - monument to those who died in the middle.

It's a beautiful day today. Perfect for a walk to nowhere in particular.

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