Thursday, April 06, 2006

Over and over

Warmer weather (well, except for the freak snowfall yesterday), spring breaks, easter vacations - all of these are conspiring to bring more tourists into the city. I was in Times Square last week for a business event and nearly bowled over by the large clumps of matching sweatshirted teens on every block. I'd almost forgotten what it's like, since downtown is not quite as popular. Unless, of course, you work in an office complex that has public spaces with large walls of windows looking out over Ground Zero.

It's odd to have people lined up taking photographs as I hustle past carrying a stack of brochures with my corporate id dangling from my neck. I'm immersed in my normal workday routine and they are attempting to experience something profound and meaningful. I'm not sure how I feel about it. I want to be cynical and call out, "Nice construction site, huh?" but truthfully, I can understand why they are drawn to staring at it. The idea of so many people killed so suddenly, so brutally, is incomprehensible and so you find yourself doing seemingly shallow things to try to get close to it, to try to gain some kind of insight that will settle it in your mind. But I also think that looking at that construction site, at the roads and ramps and PATH trains and trucks, can never be the same as seeing the piles of rubble, the clouds of smoke, the destruction. Looking at the posted photographs of the towers will never do justice to how massive they really were, how impossible it is to grasp that they disappeared. I almost feel sorry for people now who stand in awe of what is there now, because it can never represent the real horror. And ultimately, that's why they are there, isn't it? To share in the pain?

It's strange for me, too, as I have always worked in midtown before, and while I had visited the World Trade Center and the surrounding blocks on occasion, I have now spent far more time in this neighborhood than in the entire seventeen years I've spent working in Manhattan. So my experience, my true experience, is the construction site I pass twice a day, and less and less the columns of smoke I saw billowing up Fifth Avenue as I crossed on 42nd Street as the first tower fell.


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