I finally went down to the site of the World Trade Center. It was 2am, dark and cool, and I found myself at a 2-Step Garage benefit (featuring the Artful Dodger) at a place a few blocks south of Canal. This is the furthest south I’ve been since 11th September and I realised I needed to go and see the site myself. So I excused myself from Pam and Ann and set out South down Broadway.
Silence on the streets. No cars taking their usual late night fares back to the Wall Street area. Groups of people, all taking, some joking and laughing, walk down Broadway. Occaisional glances to my left, over “Do not Cross” police barriers reveals nothing except the glare of the powerful lights helping the workers at the site. I carry on southward. Barriers dictate my route, across Broadway, down the East side of the road. My fellow travellers are funnelled, condensed. I find myself wondering how I’ll feel. I find myself hoping I’ll be able to see something, so I know I’ve been there, something other than the absence that can be seen from my roof.
The police barriers are festooned with letters of hope, encouragement and the occasional missing person. People stop and read the letters. Other people that is, I walk forward – purposeful, resolute now that I’ve decided on my goal. I find myself distracted by the twin curves of a girl’s arse. Should we fuck in celebration of the life we still have? To populate the world with more people to replace those lost? Or just to remind ourselves that we’re alive and can hold someone close. I wonder if other people are thinking the same thing. Deep in my contemplations, or is it distractions, I realise I can see distressed buildings to my right, through the barriers. I stop. There’s no sight of the towers – or the remains of the towers – but I can see the building I used to walk alongside to get into the north tower when I worked there. It’s facade has been ripped off, pieces of wall dangling over the plaza.
I walk on. That was not what I came to see. I find myself hoping that there’s still some remnant of the towers, something I can point to and say “there it is”. Or was. More barriers, more coverings. My heart sinks. Everyone seems to be squeezing views through small gaps in tarpaulins. I keep walking. Then, suddenly, there it is. A lone shard of tower, jutting pitifully towards the sky. The spotlights reveal its nakedness.A young guy is taking some footage on his video camera over the waist high police barrier. I stop. Leaning into the barrier for support I look. This is what I came to see, but I want more. There must be more surely. This can’t be it? All that remains of two towers, each a quarter of a mile high with an acre on each floor? I walk on. Someone’s taking photos on a tripod. As I walk south I find no ‘better’ views of the devastation. I walk back to the barrier.
In front of me, the traffic light pointlessly changes from red, to amber to green and back again. No cars are going down this road. No crossing is happening. The light adds a strange sense of contrast to the brightly lit devastation that lies down the road. The exo-skeleton of the tower I used to walk into for six months. The rising arches that started the metal sheath that ran all the way up to the 96th floor where I worked and beyond. The runners along which the automated window cleaner would ride and occasionally scare the hell out of me when it came to my window.
Tears start to come to my eyes. I lean into the blue police barrier for support. The people around me start to fade away as I focus on the skeleton of that once mighty building. I feel sobs welling in my chest as I think of all the people who lie there. Tears stream down my face. Around me flashes from disposable cameras shatter the gloom, interspersed with laughter. I want to rip the cameras from people’s hands and smash them to the ground. I want to scream at people and ask them if they’d laugh when they visited Auschwitz. If they’d giggle and joke as they toured the showers where thousands of people were tortured. Fucking tourists. I know I’m not one of them. I’m here to pay my respects. To impose a reality on something that has affected my life for a month now. I’m glad I’m crying. It’s the right thing to be doing. I let the tears flow, the grief burst out and cleanse itself. I hear someone next to me ask the policeman if there’s anywhere nearer. There isn’t. I return to my vigil.
More minutes pass. I don’t want to leave this sight in front of me, but the tears are getting too much. I feel embarassed at my grief. No-one else is crying. I turn suddenly and head directly away, down a quiet road. As I round the corner the tears come stronger. I feel like sitting down and crying but I walk on. My tears start to subside as I walk towards Brooklyn Bridge. A numbness is upon me – I avoid looking at people. The pavement is much more fascinating and safer. I don’t want anyone to say to me “are you OK?”, I want to be alone, private.
At Brooklyn Bridge I get into a cab. The ride home is quick, painless. $8.50 plus tip. At home my neighbour is having a party. Life goes on.