Posts Tagged ‘Ground Zero’

17 years ago, 4 weeks after 9/11, I walked the perimeter of Ground Zero. I dubbed this “The Mile of Tears” and wrote about it in my blog The World Trade Center Journal. The images, the smells, and the dust, I shall never forget that walk. In the corner of a building’s entrance (all stores were shuttered during that time) I saw some dust piled into a crevice. Taking a plastic bag from my purse and carefully, tenderly, I scooped that dust into it. I felt that this was the last remains of the towers and might even contain human ash from when they burned.

That small bag of dust has been contained in a special box for all these years. Each 9/11 I place that small box in a prominent place in my house, along with a crucifix, a picture of the twin towers and candles. This is MY annual 9/11 memorial. This year it takes on a new meaning.

When the first responders ran to the WTC to rescue people they had no time to think about themselves. As we know many lost their lives in their acts of heroism during those ensuing hours. Later, hundreds of these first responders descended upon Ground Zero, to work on what was then known as “the Pile”, trying to locate anyone who might have been buried alive. Days, weeks, months passed that they worked down there, many without wearing any protective masks, inhaling the dark, gray, toxic dust. The same dust I now have in my little box.

Over the years that dust, lodged in their bodies, spawned cancers of all types. During these years they also had to fight for their rights for health insurance payouts, as one after another succumbed to the various diseases. Our heroes, those who died after that day in September, though not quite forgotten were never memorialized in either the WTC memorial or in the annual reading of names.

This year, that’s been rectified. The conceptual design for a new memorial at Ground Zero was unveiled Wednesday May 23, 2018 for the “Memorial Glade”. It will honor those first responders who labored for months on the toxic site and remember the neighborhood residents and workers also poisoned by the air.

Morgan Gstalter writes, “The 9/11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center will be modified to honor rescue and recovery workers who have died from related illnesses. ‘The 9/11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center is determined to build greater awareness about this unabating health crisis,’ Stewart and Greenwald wrote. Six large stone elements will be placed along a new pathway on the southwest side of the existing plaza.

‘The stones are worn and broken, but not beaten; they appear to jut up and out of the plaza as if violently displaced, and convey strength and resistance,’ according to Michael Arad.

Arad, along with Peter Walker, were the original designers of the 9/11 Memorial and also designed the addition.

The stones will mirror the path of the main ramp used by the rescue and recovery workers.

The 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund released new data earlier this month that found victims and first responders are reporting ‘increasing numbers and types of illnesses’ nearly two decades after the attacks.”

Morgan Gstalter  – 05/30/18 11:24 am edt “Jon Stewart announces new section of 9/11 memorial to honor first responders” http://Thehill.Com/Homenews/News/389879-Jon-Stewart-Announces-9-11-Memorial-For-First-Responders-Who-Died-From

And the path will end near the Survivor Tree, the enduring symbol of the city’s resilience.

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The Sentinel

Like an oak from an acorn it grew

Higher and higher until it towers over its sisters.

A giant among the giants

That stand guarding this sacred ground.

 

It speaks silent words in the night

That only those who have lost deeply can hear.

Words that fall on ears

Like water drops tumbling into a bottomless pool.

 

The sun glints off its skin

At night, lights capture its ethereal presence.

Standing tall through all watches,

A modern Greek Colossus tasked with protecting lost souls.

 

From whence did you come

You rascacielo – scraper of the sky?

From memories of the twins,

Their legacy of which you are tasked to carry on.

 

Watch over us, mighty one,

Sentinel of all that is holy and hallowed below.

Let your strength be our strength

As we walk beneath you through the coming years.

 

You are WTC 1, half of what once was.

You embody our dreams, hopes and fears for a future not yet formed.

You stand as a testament that we will never forget.

You are the Freedom Tower, 1776 feet of steel and glistening glass.

09/18/12 – Leona M Seufert

The 16th anniversary of 9/11 is less than 4 weeks away. What happened 16 years ago is overshadowed this year by continuing gun violence, attempted terrorist attacks, presidential problems, and the nuclear threat from North Korea. From now till Sept 11 2017, I will be writing about our love/hate affair with remembering America’s worse day in its history.

I would like to start off with this excerpt from my World Trade Center Journal.   I started that website in 2001 long before we had the blogs of today. For the first year it was my diary of what was happening along with my reactions and feelings and photographs of Ground Zero. This comes from my post on Oct 11, 2001 “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”:

“Tomorrow will never be the same. You, me, NYC, the US, lost something that dreadful day in Sept. We lost our innocence, our faith that tomorrow will be like the ones that came before. What we need to find, amidst the rubble of our disturbed lives, is the spark of hope. Hope that we can continue to care about one another. Hope that this nation will not destroy itself through pride and arrogance. Hope that our phrase “in God we trust” will indeed bring the grace of the Lord (however we see him/her) down upon us. For only than can we move forward beyond grief and tears, beyond the self-absorption of endless memories of the past’s horrors. Only then can we rebuild….replace the City of Sorrows with the City of Hope.”

16 years later I wonder if we have…

The winter 2016 issue of Urban Agenda Magazine had a very interesting article about the then newly completed “Oculus” at Ground Zero. Built in stages, it is NYC’s newest transportation hub, a fact you can really miss if you walk its many confusing passageways. Yes they all lead to the many subway connections (sorry no free transfers) and the NY/NJ Path train but it lacks any of the feel of a train station or airport. White and sterile, when I first visited it I nick named it an inverted whale skeleton. Well the article is this magazine “Inspiration In the Big Apple” goes further with colorful and descriptive phrasing.

The article’s author, Ellen Gilbert gives a good, many paragraph background on the architect Santiago Calarava, but it’s the quotes that produce the phrases that tickled my writer’s funny bone.

Here are some outtakes:

Amy Plitt, writer for nycurbed.com, says “sure to be Instagram catnip” because of its photogenic unique design.

Joan Gonchar, writer for Architectural Digest,is quoted as saying, “this subterranean drama doesn’t translate into coherence above ground.” And goes on to state, “the building which has been likened to everything from a stegosaurus to a porcupine to a Thanksgiving turkey carcass, is ill at ease on its site.”

Calavera is also the architect for the replacement at Ground Zero of the historic St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church that was destroyed on 9/11. Archbishop Demetrios, the primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, said in this article that he hoped the nondenominational bereavement center in the church would “project something that will open a window to eternity.”

Whether “catnip” or a “window to eternity”, it’s always refreshing to read an article that has fun with words.

 

After my trip to Ground Zero on Fri 9th I feel this quote about a city half way across the world from here describes accurately what it is like to walk that lower Manhattan area 15 years after 9/11:

“…marked today not so much by the destruction wrought by war but the rampant reconstruction that swallows up the past as wholesale as any bomb.” – Lina Mounzer in her Aramco magazine July/August issue article “Beirut Sounds Like This (a report on Labanese capital’s indie/alt music scene)

Once again that time of year for remembering has come around. We pause from our sadness over hurricane Isaac’s devastation to the Gulf, concerns about presidential politics with its promises, rhetoric and posturing, and the bloody civil war in Syria, to remember 9/11. Can it really be 11 years? And what does this year mean to us, individually and as a Nation? We had our 10th anniversary last year, since then we eliminated Osama Bin Laden, the 9/11 memorial opened, and the first major building on Ground Zero is nearing completion. Those of us who are wordsmiths, image-makers, or grievers of lost ones continue on our paths of trying to insure that this doesn’t just become another day.

But it’s “Patriot Day” after all. 9, 11 are just the digits of the day on the calendar. And what the heck does a patriot day mean? It can mean we support our troops or we are willing to die for our country, or we are just good citizens who salute the flag when it’s displayed. The name has totally wiped out the gory, bloody meaning of that horrible day. And that is the purpose of a “euphemism”, to replace words with ones that have a diminished impact; to, in essence, sanitize or change the meaning. So we can read the names in the morning, feel a bit of sorrow, then go on with the rest of the day: shop, work, go to a movie, or watch that new television show (that doesn’t deal with 9/11).   

Another example of how 9/11 has been “sanitized” is the renaming of the Freedom Tower. That name along with it 1776’ height was to be a subtle way of displaying our patriotism, a sort of “giving the finger” to those who would be thinking about raping this nation again. But, thanks to the world of commerce and the “bottom line” (isn’t there a bottom line to everything today?) it was renamed “One World Trade Center”, which was thought to be a better draw for corporate tenants. (heaven forbid that they would have to realize they were looking out onto sacred ground every time they looked out their windows!)

I even feel that the memorial itself is a visual euphemism for what happened on that site that day. Where are any of the items that would bring us back to the tragedy: The lattice façade, the crossbeam cross, the stairwell that remained standing amidst the rubble? In the original call for design entries, inclusion of such objects was a mandatory part of the design specifications. But now we have waterfalls, trees, and sterile concrete walkways!

Do you know of any other euphemisms surrounding 9/11 or Ground Zero? I would love to hear about them.

For more comments, insights and reactions, read my online WTC Journal , it is my ongoing 11 year collection of essays and poetry and photographs about 9/11 and the rebuilding of Ground Zero.