I’ve been to Ground Zero three times.
The first time was in 2005, a few weeks after my father died. I didn’t like being there, probably because I was already mourning more than I believed possible. We went down and looked through the chain-link fence. Banners listing the names of the victims covered large sections of the fence. When you looked down, you saw a massive hole in the ground, a few trucks and not much else. The enormity of it was so much more dramatic than seeing it on TV. My classmate’s name was right there, in alphabetical order. I felt like it was a pilgrimage, of sorts.
I went back in October, 2009, when I first started on my book. I spent the morning just walking around, soaking up atmosphere, as it were. Trinity Church and St. Paul’s were quiet escapes from the hustle and bustle of re-building. The site, so barren 4 years earlier, was a construction site now. The banners with the names were gone, replaced by ones showing renderings of what was being built. What had happened 8 years earlier seemed almost forgotten. Life moved on: the Burger King across from the site was bustling, as were the souvenir shops, clothing stores and gentleman’s club.
In 2010, I spent two days at Ground Zero, September 10 and 11. This time was different for a couple reasons. I was deep in the book research and writing now.
Being there on the anniversary had a very different feel to it. The construction had progressed dramatically. I stood on Broadway, across from Zuccotti Park, with a young man who lived and worked in Manhattan. He’d never been down there, but because it was a Saturday, he didn’t have to work. He just wanted to show his respect. It was a solemn crowd.
I was in New York last week with my family, and didn’t go to Ground Zero. We were there for a mini-vacation and college visit. I’ll go back in May and again in September, for the 10th anniversary. I’m sure I’ll be shocked by the changes in the site and the surrounding area.
Life goes on.
Whether we want it to or not.