It's our new Grand Canyon. Our Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor. You cannot believe a space like this can exist in New York. Something came and took out those buildings and those people. They are still there. You can feel them in the heat shimmer and the large steel skeletons starting for the sky. What did they think when those planes darted out of the clear blue September morn? Some thought of family and friends before fire or a hurtling death.
"They jump," the taxi driver says. " I see them and never forget. They jump because the fire is worse than you know jumping into the air."
You hear those words as you stare across the hazy chasm. Large white buildings used to be there--gone. No more. People ant climb around the chasm in a chain of silence. The steel workers are impervious now. They have worked in this space for years. Almost ten years but it still clings--the past battlefield of our republic. Go to any Civil War battlefield and it still clings there too. The death of all those people is in the still air. The heat. The grinding enormous cranes working like stoical robots to rebuild a city.
"I had to come see this," a man next to me says. We stand and stare into the yellow later afternoon void. "I had to," he says quietly.
Yes. No more spoken as the people stream by. A respectful silence. Young children have no idea and chatter away. You do have to see it. It is a memorial site and you cannot come to New York and not come pay your respects. That is what you are doing. You come to see those people who died all those years ago. Over three thousand. The cab drivers tell you there is nothing to see anymore. Not true. It is still there in the Grand Canyon of our sorrow. All those people lost in the wink of an eye.
You drift up to St. Paul's church. This is where it gets you. Here is where the firemen and the cops came to rest between shifts. It is right on the edge. Incredible this old church George Washington sat in with the time worn graves still there. You enter and you see the shrines of pictures still there. All those people looking for people no longer of this earth. All those fire department badges and then the pictures of the fallen. They are men of old America. Big bushy mustaches and wide smiles. Germans, Italians, Irish. The cops and the firemen. They have a fine sheen of dust on them. The Teddy Bears are coated in dust. It has been almost ten years and we are creeping around the remains of battle ships or tanks or any other debris left over from a war. Except these were civilians.
The church is stone quiet as people make their way past a cot used for firefighters to rest. The shrines of mementos left after the devastation brings you back to those days. Such heavy sorrow in the small shoes, slippers, boots, left outside the church. Where did all those people go? Women wipe their eyes and men hide behind shades. It still breaks your heart. Amazing we became such a divided nation after this. Seems nothing could have pulled us from our collective sorrow.
But you emerge back into the sunlight and start walking toward Broadway. You can no longer hear the cranes and the sorrow lifts as you pass into New York again. You walk on and it is behind you, but you will never forget. You will never let it go. Not until you follow your countrymen and breathe your last.