Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Place We Almost Missed

The Fall of 2003 still left us feeling shaken to the core when we thought about the events on September 11, 2001. We weren't sure we wanted to include "Ground Zero" in our plans to visit NYC. (I think we were afraid we would feel like just one of the curious that chases the fire engine or ambulance when there's a fire or accident). Would it be disrespectful to peer into the gouge in the earth where so many Americans and human beings lost their very lives? We decided not to include it in our itinerary. But, while on our way to see Battery Park, we noticed a large crowd of people a block or two to our right and wondered what the gathering was, so curiousity tempted us after all, as we imagined a special event or movie-making in progress. As we drew closer, we wondered why the crowd was unusually quiet and seemed to be walking around a cyclone fence with the noise of construction equipment coming from the background. We began to see T-shirt vendors with "I Love NYC," and "FDNY," and then it dawned on us that we had stumbled onto "Ground Zero." Two rusty girders formed a cross just over the cyclone fence, and a wave of sorrow swept over me as the enormity of the hole and flashbacks of the newsreels skipped across my brain and heart. It's hard to imagine how many lives were lost or changed in the blink of an eye as two planes hit the buildings that were no longer there. We made our way around the huge block of cyclone fencing and entered a high rise in the World Financial Center, which was an abrupt contrast in all of its shine and glory. We followed our way to a raised walkway, from which we could get a wide view of the massive hole left in the wake of the unthinkable attack. As we looked to our right, there was a building draped in a huge banner with a heart, that read: "The human spirit is not measured by the size of the act, but the size of the heart." I realized that this site also represented all of the outpouring of love and compassion that took place here in the wake of the tragedy. As we came back to the "Cross" girder and looked across the street, we saw a historical looking cemetery with the backside of a St. Paul's Chapel just beyond, a survivor and sign of hope in a sea of destruction. As we rounded the block, we found another banner of hope on the front of the church, which read "Out of the Dust." I have since read that this church was part of the volunteer relief effort in the months following 9/11. Hope remains.

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