Tuesday, November 19, 2002

I exited the subway at the Brookyln Bridge/City Hall stop, re-appeared on the city streets and was greeted by the biting chill of wind and rain. A Noreaster storm system was rolling through the Tri-State area this past weekend.

My knowledge of New York City streets is limited but I knew this subway station should leave me a mere few blocks from the World Trade Center site. How much of the tingle in my spine was due to the cold? How much was due to the palpable sense of my nearness to the WTC?

As I turned a street corner, at eye level, I saw a fence covered with items: t-shirts, hats, flags, photos, notes, banners ... the memorabilia of living people remembering the lost lives. I looked up and saw ... the open space. In the usual tall building field of view of New York, the open space was a source of dissonance. That chill ran up and down my spine again.

Like all of us, I can remember the day and time I heard the news. Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was a beautiful blue sky day in New York City as it was for me in Los Angeles. That morning, thousands of lives were snuffed out, live, on television, for all the world to see. Now, I was at that place.

There weren't many of us on that chilly morning. It was a Saturday, still pretty early for a gray sleepy morning and pretty lousy weather for being outside. But we were there to remember.

A memorial fence has been established at the western boundary of the WTC. There are informational placards with photos describing the site in the early days of New York when tall buildings were few. There were photos and explainations of the building of the Twin Towers, the first terrorist bombing, the dreadful day and the tribute in light.

At the center of exhibit, above eye level, are the names. Like the Vietnam Memorial, the names, the many names give the sense of individual loss but the number of names also gives the sense of the scale of loss. As I looked at the names, next to me were two people scanning for a name. The woman found it and said, you know one of my friends named their newborn son after him.

I watched the people at the site. For some, like me, it was to see the place and event we saw on TV and to honor and remember what happened. For others, it was far more personal. Some people sobbed and others their eyes were rimmed red from tears as they remembered someone. The wooded observation area was closed off that morning as there was a group of firefighters holding a private rememberance.

On the southern boarder of the site, there is a wooden wall and it has become the register for the site. People take out pens, pencils and markers and write on the wall. The full range of human emotion is on display on that wall and they come from all over the USA and the world. Some of the remarks are angry while others remember a loved one. Many expressed some varient of the sentiment that we will never forget.

The eastern boundary of the site is a busy street. One can cross over that street in an enclosed walkway that leads to the World Financial Center complex. The northern end of the site contains buildings next to the WTC that were damaged and seems to be an area were some of the construction vehicles can park.

I arrived back to where I had started. More people were now at the memorial, reading, looking, taking pictures, sharing with their companions where they were and what they remembered. The wind and rain and cold still filled the air yet people wanted, needed to be here and were coming. There was a diversity to the assembled people.

Those who wanted to destroy the WTC did take down two buildings, killed thousands of people and grieved those who knew the lost. But those who did that evil deed could not take down the unshakable thing that makes America great: the welcome that is available to all who come to our shores who wish to make their lives and the lives of their families better. America is far from perfect, but seeing the tapestry of peoples in New York and how reasonably well we all get along compared to other parts of the world where ethinic and religious strife is par for the course, we can only say, God has truly blessed America.