12:13 p.m. - Sunday, Sept. 30, 2001
Saturday in NYC
One thing first... I never said "cool" million. I don't even think "easy million" could be translated into "cool million." *Shrugs*
Yesterday, I went to NYC (with husb and 7 yr old in tow) on our bi-annual city trip. We drove down to the village and wandered to the waterfront. I had already seen the void in the skyline from the road leading to the Lincoln Tunnel. The hole left by this attack was more than obvious, but not realizing how indelible it would be until that night.
We walked to the waterfront, part of me wanting to see for myself and the other part to just take in the city for all it was worth. Every street corner had several police stationed there. Some directing traffic, some standing there with a cigarette staring at people as they went by. We walked until we reached the water and then turned to the left. Several blocks from where we stood, a cluster of buildings stood. The obvious hole in the center made it look off-centered and a bit morose. YOu could see tall crane tops strategically places inbetween the buildings, giving you a hint of what was happening inside.
We continued to walk south along the water. It was desolate. A cluster of citizens holding "God Bless America," and "Thank You Rescue Workers" signs cheered every vehicle that passed them (either going towards or away from the site). They were our focal point. I knew how to get back into the village when I saw them. I'd never walked down that far before, and only ventured down that part of the city in a vehicle (we've been up on the Towers several times, and as a kid whose family lived in Manhattan and the Bronx, we were always in the city and sometimes down by Wall STreet driving by the men/women in suits).
The presence of police became more intense. Signs taped to telephone poles and yellow ribbons tied to fences gave me the feeling of intense loss and saddness. YOu can pick up some of those feelings from the News, but it is a whole different story when you experience it up close. Natural curiousity pulled us closer. Finally, we were about 4-5 blocks away from the site. The buildings were towering over us in the distance, yet we knew... it was something sacred.
When I noticed more rescue workers walking towards us to the relief centers, I knew it was time to go back. Police, standing around in clusters, sirens, firetrucks, posters, rescue workers. The visuals I'd experienced until now were made real. I felt as tho I was being sacriligious. We "had" to go back.
We made a left and walked up the street. You could see the surrounding buildings protecting its center. Like warriors surrounding a wounded soldier. It was breath-taking.
When we got back to the car, we decided to drive up to Midtown Manhattan and wander around as usual. As we passed firehouse after firehouse, you could see the obvious pain. The mourning banners hung over open bay doors. Pictures of their loved ones lost were hung over a large cluster of candles and flowers. People streamed past the firehouses, paying their last respects to men they probably didn't know, but appreciated. It was a sacred place, so much so that my camera never came out of the case. I couldn't take a picture the pain of this magnitude without unearthing someone's bare agony. Visually, in my mind, I will never forget what I saw.
As we drove north on the Avenue of the Americas (5th) we could see scores of street vendors selling flags, big and small, pin and t-shirt, scarves and bandanas. I've never seen so many flags in one area. Not even during National Holidays have I seen this many flags.
People hung them from their apartment windows, some from balconies, many on their cars, some from their persons.
The more north we went, the more I realized that it was business as usual in NYC. THe people here in this city are tough, something like this wouldn't paralyze them. That was obvious.
I saw more people than I've possibly seen ever in Timesquare. Billboards uttering patriotic-nationalism lined the square. Flags, pictures of flags, and support coveted the area. Red, white and blue lights pierced the sky.
En route home, as we exited the tunnel, I turned to my far right. Again, I could see the cluster of buildings, but this time they were different. I could see the intense spot lights that lit up the search area. It was seeping between the remaining buildings. Also, a hovering white cloud of smoke slowly rose from the center of this cluster. The reality of the situation became real to me, then and there. I've never seen anything like this before, nor have I experienced something so personal such as this. I was awestruck.