Saturday, May 04, 2002

There is a void.

I spent this past wednesday in New York City. I'd last been there on Thanksgiving, for the Macy's parade, but had only gotten within about 35 blocks of the WTC site. Even then, looking all the way down Fifth Avenue/Broadway and seeing only the World Financial Center was pretty eerie. Normally the view of the WFC would be blocked by the World Trade Center. Strange as it was, I was far enough away for the sight to not seem real. At the time, the presence of NYC police and firemen marching in the parade, the crowd's wildly enthusiastic response to them, and the generally different feel amongst the people in the city were the most significant reminders of what had happened two months earlier.

This week, I had the opportunity to see the "Ground Zero" area up close, and the realization of the loss there was profound and personal. Even though just about all of the twisted metal and crumbled rubble has been removed, and most of the work appears to be currently focused on removing structural elements in the many-stories-deep hole, there is a sobering sense of what terrible evil was perpetrated there. There is a void in the earth, in the sky, and beyond.

I was first touched on this visit by a wall of the "missing from WTC 9-11-01" announcements and photos that is still up in Grand Central Station. I'd seen photos of these, but looking at them up close was a different experience entirely. Many had handwritten updates like: "body recovered 12-17-01, funeral 12-28-01, rest in peace." Some of the photos showed the missing in a family portrait, those families now coping with the terrible loss of their loved ones. Very heavy, very sad. For most of us, something over 99% of our lives remains the same as it was before September 11. We can be thankful for that, but consider and pray for those whose lives have changed completely.

This is the WTC site from the west side, with the cross that had been found intact in the rubble visible near the flag in the center. The press photos that show the cross as discovered illustrate just how much rubble has been cleared from the site. Even though there were many construction workers present when I took this photo, most were working deep in the hole and closer to the East side, lending a solemn feeling of emptiness to this corner of the site on this particular morning.

Later on Wednesday, we went up to the Empire State Building observation deck. I took this photo looking straight south. You can see the void in the skyine, right of the centerline of the shot. The World Trade Center towers are gone. It still seems almost unimaginable.

Another surprise I got in New York City was how that Chinatown continues to grow, and Little Italy continues to shrink. I love Chinatown (especially the magnificent Jing Fong ), but it scares me that Little Italy is fading away. This shot is North of Canal near Elizabeth street - which would traditionally be solidly within the boundaries of Little Italy. Look at the business signs. Good dried fish, good herb roots, not so good cannoli. Fortunately, Mulberry Street still is adrift with the odor of garlic and basil.


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