No day shall erase you
from the memory of time.
I spent the weekend after the U.S. election immersed in the Ground Zero neighborhood. In the end, it was an uplifting trip. The events of September 11, 2001 are etched in the beings of most Americans who were alive on that day. Having grown up in New York City with parents whose lives revolved around the New York financial district, the horror of that day pierced me deeply. St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center, which waited on alert that fateful day for the injured that never came, was a mere block from my grandmother’s apartment.
Over the years, I have visited the site many times…….weeks after the attack, I peered through fencing at the wreckage. As years passed, I followed the debates over moving forward with what was surely hallowed ground. Eight of the sixteen acres were used to create a park where the footprints of the destroyed buildings hold reflecting ponds with waterfalls that are lined with the names of those who died either on that day or in the earlier attack on the trade center. I visted those ponds when they opened to the public.
This time I had tickets for the 9/11 Memorial Museum which now stands on the site. I confess that as I traveled down into the museum proper I grew increasingly nervous. As images of the two towers still standing abounded, I needed to stop and breathe a bit. There were tears in my eyes for over half of the time I spent in the museum – I think after that I was numb to the sorrow of what I was revisiting.
And then, for me, it was over. Back above ground with thankfully beautiful fall weather, I spent the rest of my weekend wandering the neighborhood that now surrounds the site.
Some of the buildings were present in 2001. St. Paul’s Chapel stands across the street from site. Only one window pane was broken during the attack and for nine months the church served as an oasis with services for those working at the site. These days tourists wander in and out of the chapel. The Bell of Hope rests in the chapel grounds. It was gift to NYC from the city of London and has been rung every year on the anniversary of 9/11. It is a peaceful place.
This was my first visit to the area since the Occulus has been completed. Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, the hub not only is an embarcation point for over 250,000 daily commuters but a tourist mecca of shops and restaurants, all in a massive white open space. However, it is the roof design that is magical. It reminds of wings of a dove, rising from the depth of ground zero, carrying hope for our future.
The theme of openness is carried into other complexes being built in the neighborhood. Brookfield Place is a complex office, restaurants, and high end stores that complements the WTC site. Outside the complex, one can see in the distance, Ellis Island, where so many of our ancestors first set foot on U.S. soil. It is a good reminder of how our country has always been built upon diversity.
By the end of my visit, my spirit did feel uplifted. What happened on 9/11 will forever remind us of the horrors that human beings are capable of; what has been created in the years since in the area reminds us both of the goodness that was manifested that day by victims and survivors and the courage and commitment to moving forward positively that is the bedrock of this nation’s being. That bears remembering after this election season!!