A few days ago, I told you about my journey down the High Line, and I mentioned that I was headed toward Ground Zero. I had the pleasure of visiting the Twin Towers on several occasions, and I’ve made a few stops at the site in the last ten years. It was disheartening to see that little progress had been made for what seemed like a very long time. So, on September 10th, I made the trek downtown to see how the area has rebounded since my last visit.
I’m happy to say that it’s doing very well! I’m sure that you’ve seen photos or news footage of the new memorial at the site. I think it is fantastic. Genius, even! After lots of debate, pain and legal wrangling, it is good to see life teeming there again. I’m really glad that the families who need a place to go to feel connected to their loved ones have that opportunity now. I believe that, as the park matures and the building is completed, this will be among one of the finest public spaces in the U.S., and I find it refreshing that the survivors want to share it with us. It keeps their loved one’s names alive.
The terror alert was at it’s highest level that weekend, but I didn’t feel afraid as I walked around the site. You couldn’t blow a feather without hitting law enforcement of one kind, or another. The NYPD, FBI, and Secret Service were everywhere; many toting major fire power. It was oddly comforting. I felt lucky to live in country where I didn’t have to be scared of them, and I was glad to see that they were so patient with the huge crowd.
That said, something I saw while I was there still haunts me to this day. There were a lot of people protesting at Ground Zero. I’m all for free speech, but this was hate speech. In the name of whatever religion they ascribe to, they were chanting horrible things into megaphones and waving big signs to try and get their point across. What was their point? There were so many, but it all boiled down to this: It’s your fault. You caused it. You’re gay? Your fault. You’re an immigrant? Your fault. You were on one of the planes, in one of the buildings, or are a surviving loved one? All your fault, and their God wants you to pay and they want you to die. The way they said it all was vile. I will not repeat what I heard here or anywhere.
The worst part of it was that they looked just like me. White. American. Middle-aged. Whatever all that means. I didn’t see a single person of any other race or ethnicity acting out that way. I was embarrassed and ashamed by their words and behavior. I made sure to make eye contact and smile at the people who didn’t look like me. It was my small way of apologizing; of saying that we aren’t all that way. I suspect they already knew that. Isn’t that part of the reason that the United States is such a desirable place to live? To live and let live.
I did see a few rays of sunshine that day, both literally and figuratively. The clouds rolled in and out rather quickly, and I felt lucky to capture the changes.
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