Manhattan Christmas Eve (xi)

The North Side was the encampment and the staging area. Red Cross facilities and lots of construction company trailers. From Greenwich Street we looked south and saw the most direct view of the site. We walked as close as we could to the chain link and tarpaulin boundary. For the second time, there was the smell. We all noticed it and then I mentioned it. We did not try to describe it, but again, it was a cold smell. Another shrine with flowers and flags and photographs was adjacent to the opening in the fence guarded by two police officers.

For the last time I stood for a moment, transfixed with a gaze into the sky where the World Trade Center Towers had been. One last time, I tried to imagine what was there and is no more, all those people who were and are no more.

A car approached the gate and inched forward through the crowd of tourists politely jockeying for a better view through the fence. The police officers spoke to the driver, and then opened the gate. As the car passed, the tourists lurched forward as a group, following in the car’s wake hoping for a photo and glimpse through the opened gate.

Lee said he could have run over then and tried to get a shot, but he didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do. I agreed with him.

As we continued up Barclay Street, we realized we had completed the walk around the site. St. Peter’s Church was on the opposite corner, its porch still crowded with people with cameras. I did not feel as removed from them as I did an hour ago. We were all drawn to the site, and we each take away a personal experience. Each of theirs is different than mine, as it should be.

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

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