Manhattan Christmas Eve (ix)

People have been living in lower Manhattan for a long time. Humanity has been concentrated on the southern tip of that island for centuries. For that reason alone, the streets are sacred. So many who are not here now were here on this spot. And since September 11, that number leaped and did so in a horrible way. We were visiting the site out of respect and reverence. In our way, just by being there we were saying a prayer for those who are gone and the many, many who are left behind.

When we got to Greenwich Street and turned north, the sidewalk became a tunnel because of the scaffolding overhead and along the sides. One lone shop was open in the tunnel, a clothing store. The older Chinese couple stood in the doorway behind a makeshift table with knit hats. Lee bought a red FDNY and a blue NYPD hat and Mattie picked out a pink Yankees hat.

The streets along the parameter of the site look like the part of town that was long ago prosperous and since gone into decline. The entire area seems deserted, damaged or under repair. Restaurants, bars, barber shops, grocery stores, newsstands are closed and all seem dusty. Like a mill town when the mill is closed down. Those hats were just the sort of souvenirs Lee and Mattie wanted and it was perhaps a big sale that day for the store owner.

We stood for a while at Albany Street and watch a few tractor-trailers of debris leave. Huge chunks of concrete with twisted rebar coming out of the top. Made me think of Medusa after Perseus had beheaded her. This was the main entrance and exit for all the equipment associated with the recovery. Near the guard station at the entrance stood a sign post, the kind you see in old war movies with the destinations of various cities. This one had a several cities from around the world, including Kabul--6,750 miles. The last destination was Hell--0 miles.

Again my eyes drifted upward where the buildings were and I tried to see them, as they would have looked in this morning sunlight. I thought again of all those who had passed that spot on the morning of September 11 and all the days prior and again I was filled with reverence.

[an essay in 13 parts from Pablo Notes, 2001]

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