Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ground Zero Blues

Old Twin Towers
On a recent trip to the Big Apple with my son to watch my Yankees mix it up with Boston, one of our stops included the World Trade Center, site of the 9/11 Memorial. It was dedicated on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 (Sept. 11, 2011). I had visited Ground Zero a few times: before the attack, shortly after, and a couple years prior to the Memorial opening. And while what had happened there was horrific, I figured another visit would be no big deal. But what awaited me inside was literally haunting.
Last time I went, the place was walled off due to construction. I was able to look inside though from a perch along a sky-way between adjacent buildings and the site was a jumble; guys wearing hardhats and orange vests were operating heavy machines doing this and that, here and there. On this latest visit, the wooden walls were still up and the accompanying 9/11 Memorial Museum remained a work in progress. Still, the public was actively visiting the memorial grounds itself. So we got our tickets (they’re free) and waited with hundreds of others to enter.
As we stood in line, I gauged the mindset of folks around me. They seemed pleasant yet reflective. I imagined that like me, they were thinking about what happened at this place. I suppose a few also thought about why it happened.
Perhaps it was due to my anxiety of what might be inside but as we made our way along the roped off snaking line that kept switching back and forth I was reminded, rather annoyingly, of similar set ups for amusement park rides. Minutes later that image was replaced by something akin to airport security, complete with conveyor belts and x-ray machines to screen your stuff. It was a dark reminder of what happened a little over a decade on those 16 or so acres of ground. At the other side of the security checkpoint, as I fumbled to put back on my belt, a father/daughter duo was also piecing themselves together. From the look of the girl, she probably had been born around the time the twin towers came down. I wondered what she might be thinking about all this. Ancient history? Nothing at all?
A few minutes later we were inside. Dramatic doesn’t begin to describe the power of the memorial. Neither does reverent. Despite the horrific act of violence that happened there, the place held a peaceful beauty that caught me completely off guard. It looked like a park but felt like much more, from the immense twin memorial waterfall monuments called Reflecting Absence, to the scorched lone pear tree people were snapping pictures of, which I learned was the only living thing to survive the towers’ deadly collapse. All the other trees, a multitude of them, were newly planted.
Lone pear surviving tree
To say my visit was meaningful is an understatement. ‘Spiritual awareness’ is a closer description. ‘Ghostly encounter’ might be even closer to the mark. Until that visit, the jury has been out for me regarding the notion that spirits and specters roam the earth. Now it’s no longer out of the question because my heart and mind are fairly certain something other-worldly passed through me that day, in one specific spot I was standing and in one smallish area I walked through.
As my son and I were leaving, we passed the father/daughter pair from security. He was quizzing her. Father: "Now what is it that happened here?" Daughter: "A plane hit a building." Father (gently): “Two planes hit two buildings.”
And the Yankees lost.

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